Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Australia: Brisbane Roar their way to Minor Premiership

Posted in Asian Football, Oceania Football by peterbein on February 13, 2011
Brisbane Roar

Brisbane Roar are Hyundai A-League premiers

The Hyundai A-League, Australia’s top flight football league, has concluded its regular season this weekend. The destiny of the Minor Premiership has been in the hands of Brisbane Roar for a few weeks already as they walked away with the regular season title by eight points from Central Coast Mariners. Now that the top six places have been decided everybody can look forward to the post-season Play-Off series in the hope of becoming Australian champions.

The undoubted success story of the season so far, Brisbane Roar have maintained their form and consistency in recent weeks even in the midst of the recent devastation that occurred in the area due to flash flooding and treacherous weather conditions which has made life difficult for everybody. Ange Postecoglou’s men won their final game of the regular season this weekend to Gold Coast United in the M1 Derby with the club reaching new heights this season. The Roar have lost only once in the 30 game regular season, that sole defeat coming in September against Melbourne Victory and the club has since gone 25 matches unbeaten which is a new Hyundai A-League record.

The rest of the weekend’s results saw Adelaide United secure third spot with a 2-1 win at home to Melbourne Victory whilst outgoing champions Sydney FC, who never really recovered from an atrocious start to the season, finished seven points outside the top six and miss out on the Play-Offs for the second time in three seasons. They ended their campaign with a 2-2 draw at expansion team Melbourne Heart who finished in a respectable eighth place in the club’s maiden season, one spot above their weekend opponents. Wellington Phoenix secured the sixth and final Play-Off place beating bottom side North Queensland Fury 3-1 in their final regular season game. Newcastle United Jets had made a recent valiant attempt at reaching the top six but fell six points short. They concluded the season in seventh place after losing 1-0 to second place Central Coast Mariners.

Brisbane can now look forward to a two-legged Qualifying semi-final against second placed Central Coast Mariners in the Play-offs, the winner of which will get home advantage in the Grand Final whilst the loser will get a second chance to reach the final in week 3 of the post-season. The teams finishing from third to sixth – namely Adelaide United, Gold Coast United, Melbourne Victory and Wellington Phoenix – will be seeded and meet in one-leg straight knockout rounds with the one team remaining after week 2 facing off against the Qualifying round loser in week 3.

HYUNDAI A-LEAGUE PLAY-OFF DRAW

1. Central Coast Mariners v Brisbane Roar

2. Brisbane Roar v Central Coast Mariners

Winner goes straight to final; loser plays winners of match 5

3. Adelaide United v Wellington Phoenix

4. Gold Coast United v Melbourne Victory

5. Winner Match 3 v Winner Match 4

6. Brisbane Roar/Central Coast Mariners v Winner Match 5

7. Brisbane Roar/Central Coast Mariners v Winner Match 6

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A-League: Champions still without a win Down Under (+video)

Posted in Asian Football, Oceania Football by peterbein on September 12, 2010

Problems are mounting for the defending Australian champions Sydney FC having played six games in the 2010-11 season thus far. The club has failed to win a single game in that time and for coach Vítězslav Lavička the current run of bad form is a growing concern especially as his team had high expectations to retain the title they won in dramatic fashion in 2009-10. The latest setback came away at Wellington Phoenix, the New Zealand team coached by Ricki Herbert making the most of their chances against a team down on their luck. The scoring in the Matchday 6 encounter began in the 50th minute when Bruno Cazarine was yellow carded for giving away a penalty kick which was duly converted by Paul Ifill. Cazarine made amends seventeen minutes later when he coolly slotted home before Sydney FC would endured more misery following Nick Ward’s 72nd minute winner for the Phoenix. The defeat leaves Sydney FC rooted rock bottom in the eleven team league with just two points from six matches. Sydney’s plight only serves as a general reminder of what is an unfamiliar look about the table at the moment. Adelaide United lead the way with 14 points followed by Perth Glory and the Central Coast Mariners who are both just three points behind. Melbourne Victory, the dominant force in A League football, lie in fourth spot with eight points with Brisbane Roar trailing them on goal difference. New expansion team Melbourne Heart have begun life well lying as they do in sixth spot.

WATCH WELLINGTON PHOENIX v SYDNEY FC HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

Australia: A-League 2010-11 Preview

Posted in Asian Football, Oceania Football by peterbein on August 3, 2010
Sydney FC

Sydney FC won the Double in 2009-10

After nearly five months off the Hyundai A-League competition for 2010-11 is ready to begin this Thursday with the league’s new boys Melbourne Heart kicking off the action with a home tie against Central Coast Mariners. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks forward to the action Down Under:

Australia’s equivalent of the Old Firm, Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory, are the favourites to win the honours at the start of a much-anticipated new season. Sydney FC won the domestic Double last season after pipping their arch-rivals Melbourne by a point to the Minor Premiership and beating them on penalties in the Championship Grand Final played after the regular season. The Victory will no doubt be looking to gain revenge and will have their chance to put an early marker on the champions when they travel to Sydney Football Stadium with both teams facing off in the opening round on Saturday.

The Victory will also have a firm local rivalry in the form of Melbourne Heart who are the league’s newest expansion team, increasing the number of teams in the league to eleven. This means that there will be one team per matchday who gets a rest whilst the others fight for league points. Each team will play the other ten teams in the league three times during the regular season making a total of thirty games spread over twenty seven weeks with some games being played in midweek.

Melbourne Heart will make their debut in the league on Thursday against the Gold Coast Mariners who hope to improve on their eighth place finish in the 2009-10 regular season. There are many young Australians in the Heart squad who will be ably led on the pitch by wily veteran John Aloisi, who left Sydney FC at the end of last season on a free transfer, and from the bench in the form of former Ajax star Johnny Van’t Schip who is the club’s coach. Friday matches in the A-League sees last year’s wooden spoonists Adelaide United hosting of Newcastle United Jets and Perth Glory – complete with marquee signing Robbie Fowler – facing off against Fowler’s former club North Queensland Fury with whom the player is in a bitter dispute over contractual issues that arose at the end of last season. The final match of the round, to be played on Sunday, is the “M1” derby match between Gold Coast United and the Brisbane Roar who both had contrasting fortunes last season with United reaching the play-offs and the Roar doing anything but as they finished second from bottom in the regular season standings. New Zealand representatives Wellington Phoenix, under the control of national team coach Ricki Herbert and maintaining the services of last season’s top scorer Shane Smeltz, will miss out in the opening round of matches and will face Gold Coast United at home in their opening match on August 13th.

HYUNDAI A-LEAGUE 2010-11 MATCHDAY 1 FIXTURES

05/08/10 Melbourne Heart v Central Coast Mariners

06/08/10 Adelaide United v Newcastle United Jets

06/08/10 Perth Glory v North Queensland Fury

07/08/10 Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory

08/08/10 Gold Coast United v Brisbane Roar

Bye: Wellington Phoenix

FIFA World Cup Review – Asia

Posted in Asian Football, International Football by peterbein on July 12, 2010

Keisuke Honda

Keisuke Honda celebrates his goal in Japan's 3-1 win over Denmark

Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the Asian nations’ performances in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Japan and South Korea both qualified for the knock out stages of a World Cup for the first time outside of their own continent. Both countries reached the last sixteen in their co-hosted 2002 tournament and this competition was a small bit of history for Asian football’s two powerhouse nations. Australia were playing for the first time as an “Asian” country having qualified in 2006 through the Oceania regional qualifying round. North Korea played in only their second World Cup finals having competed for the only time in 1966.

Japan had the best record out of the Asian nations winning two of their three group games, their only reverse in this section being against eventual World Cup finalists the Netherlands to whom they lost by a slender 1-0 scoreline. Their two victories came against a disappointing Cameroon (1-0) and Denmark who they impressively swept aside by three goals to one with Keisuke Honda amongst the goals, thus increasing his blossoming reputation. Japan met Paraguay in arguably the least entertaining of the round of sixteen matches and were unfortunate to have to lose in a penalty shoot out, Yuichi Komano being the unlucky player to miss his spot kick in a 5-3 defeat for the Japanese.

South Korea were in an easier group on paper and looked impressive in their opening group game against Greece (2-0) but were brushed aside by Argentina (4-1) before scraping the point they needed to qualify for the round of sixteen stage when drawing 2-2 with Nigeria. Ultimately it was Argentina’s 2-0 win over Greece that helped the Koreans qualify for a knock out encounter with Uruguay, a match which began the post-group stage football. Lee Chung-Yong was the scorer for South Korea but his goal was the filling inbetween a Luis Suárez sandwich of goals in a game that the Uruguayans won 2-1. It was a sad end to what was a good tournament for the South Koreans and the idea of them having reached the quarter-final was never far-reaching but, alas, the South Americans just had that little bit more experience in the end.

Australia were confident going into their group matches but were given a huge wake-up call by a wonderful Germany team whose 4-0 victory over the Socceroos was one of the team performances of the tournament. They improved for their second game against Ghana but after Brett Holman had given the Socceroos the lead, Asamoah Gyan, one of the players of the tournament, equalized to give the west Africans a share of the points. The Australians were not to have much luck in the competition as Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell were both sent off in their opening two matches and, despite winning their final match against Serbia by two goals to one, they were to miss out on a place in the knock out stages due to an inferior goal difference against Ghana.

North Korea provided one of the moments of the competition when, during the national anthems before their opening group match against Brazil, Jong Tae Se’s emotions got the better of him, crying throughout. North Korea put up a respectable performance against the five-time world champions, keeping them goalless at half-time. However Maicon and Elano gave the Brazilians a two goal lead before Ji Yun-Nam pulled one back in the dying moments of the match. But that was as good as it would get on the goalscoring front for North Korea as they were totally outclassed in their other two group matches against Portugal (7-0) and Ivory Coast (3-0). Nevertheless it was fantastic to see them make an appearance and one can only wonder if it will take another 44 years for them to make another World Cup appearance………

FIFA: Groups C and D Review

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 25, 2010
Jermain Defoe

Jermain Defoe scores the goal which gave England a 1-0 win over Slovenia

Figures given are as follows: games played/points scored

GROUP C: USA 3/5; ENGLAND 3/5; SLOVENIA 3/4; ALGERIA 3/1

The United States left it very late to clinch top spot in the group but their stoppage time winner in the 1-0 victory over Algeria provided one of the FIFA World Cup’s most dramatic finishes thus far. It was justice served for the Americans after they had two perfectly good goals disallowed earlier in the tournament and it seemed that they would lament those two particular moments of bad luck until Landon Donovan’s 91st minute winner over the North Africans settled the contest. Thankfully the late winner made any arguments about the legitimacy of the disallowed goals academic and meant that the United States finished top of the group on goal difference from an England side who were made to work hard for their place in the Round of 16. Jermain Defoe scored the all-important winning goal for England against Slovenia after 22 minutes to give the Three Lions their first win of the tournament and provide Fabio Capello’s men with a much-needed boost in morale ahead of their game on Sunday afternoon against a familiar foe.

GROUP D: GERMANY 3/6; GHANA 3/4; AUSTRALIA 3/4; SERBIA 3/3

And so it was meant to be. Germany, after the scare of losing to Serbia in their second group match, eventually saw off a determined Ghana side in the final group game to set up a Round of 16 clash with England. Mesut Özil scored the winning goal for Germany in their 1-0 success over Ghana when unleashing a powerful left-footed shot from the edge of the box to seal the deal for the Adlerträger. Despite the defeat the Africans were able to celebrate after the match as they too had qualified for the knock-out stages. Australia beat Serbia 2-1 but had an inferior goal difference to Ghana who became the only one out of five African nations to progress beyond the group stage. Ghana’s reward is a Round of 16 tie against the United States in Rustenburg on Saturday whilst Germany face-off against England in Bloemfontein on Sunday.

Mesut Özil

Mesut Özil (right) is congratulated by Bastian Schweinsteiger after his goal gave Germany a 1-0 victory over Ghana

FIFA: Cameroon out as Denmark win; Aussies and Ghana draw; Holland win again

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 19, 2010
Dennis Rommedahl

Dennis Rommedahl helped Denmark come from behind to beat Cameroon 2-1

Cameroon became the first team eliminated from the FIFA World Cup as they went down to a 2-1 defeat to Denmark and, thus, remain pointless after two group matches. Even if Cameroon were to win their third group match against the Netherlands on Thursday their inferior head-to-head record against the other two teams would render them unable to gain the second spot in Group E. In the other Group E game today the Netherlands won their second match of the tournament but only after scraping a 1-0 win against Japan thanks to some bad goalkeeping. Group D saw Australia reduced to ten men and unable to keep hold of a lead as they drew 1-1 to Ghana in a frustrating game for the Socceroos.

Dennis Rommedahl was the central figure for a Denmark side who had to come from behind to clinch a 2-1 win over Cameroon. Things started well for the four-time African champions when deadly striker Samuel Eto’o took advantage of some sloppy Danish defending to give the Indomitable Lions the lead after just ten minutes. In what was a game full of energy and commitment both teams went forward and tried to put opening match defeats behind them. With twelve minutes remaining in the first half Denmark got their reward when Simon Kjær’s long pass reached Dennis Rommedahl who squared the ball for the oncoming Niklas Bendtner to equalize for the Scandinavians. Rommedahl was to prove decisive in the second half when he picked the ball up outside the Cameroon penalty box, weaved his way past Jean Makoun and curled the ball around the keeper to complete the victory for Denmark. Despite Paul Le Guen’s Cameroon trying to attack frantically in the time remaining the Danish defence held out for the win and they can now play against Japan in their final game on Thursday, June 24th in what will be a winner-takes-all encounter.

This is because Japan, who beat Cameroon in their opening match, were unable to get the better of the Netherlands who won their second consecutive game thanks to some questionable goalkeeping from Eiji Kawashima. He parried a long distance shot from Wesley Sneijder into the back of the net to gift the Dutch the only goal of the game. In a game short of creativity and chances the Japanese set out to frustrate the Dutch and keep chances at a minimum but once Sneijder had scored they had no option but to attack. This they did and they had a couple of chances to equalize, most notably when Shinji Okazaki got into the box and hit the ball over the bar from a good position in the last minute of the game. But although the Dutch were not at their fluent best they did enough to win and only need a draw against Cameroon in their final group match to seal top spot in Group E.

Asamoah Gyan

Asamoah Gyan scored to give Ghana a share of the points against Australia

In the third game of the day the Australians set about restoring battered pride by playing a Ghana side who had overcome Serbia in their opening Group D game. Australia took the lead in the eleventh minute of the game when a Marco Bresciano free-kick was spilled by Ghana keeper Richard Kingson, allowing Brett Holman to dispatch the rebound and give the Socceroos the advantage early on. The Australians were fuming mid-way through the half though when Harry Kewell, back in the side after injury, was adjudged to have handled the ball on the goal line which led to match referee Roberto Rosetti showing him a red card. Asamoah Gyan put away the resulting penalty kick to restore parity for the Africans who seem to be the continent’s best chance of further progress in the tournament. Even though there was no further goalscoring the match didn’t suffer entertainment-wise as both teams went looking for a winner but the luck just wasn’t with either team. Australia will have been happier with the point considering they played the match for more than an hour at a numerical disadvantage whilst the onus should’ve been on Ghana to finish the Antipodeans off but found themselves keeping the Aussies at bay as the game reached its conclusion. The final group matches in Group D, to be played on Wednesday June 23rd, see Australia play Serbia in a bid to keep their tournament hopes alive whilst Ghana will hope to remain unbeaten by gaining something against Germany.

FIFA: Slovenia and Ghana scrape wins; Germany impress in opener

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 13, 2010
Robert Koren

Robert Koren scored the winning goal for Slovenia in their 1-0 victory over Algeria

Day three of the FIFA World Cup began with another contender for the Most Boring Match award, at least in the first half anyway, as Algeria and Slovenia played out a pretty dull forty-five minutes of football with each team having just one major chance each. Rafik Halliche had a great oppotunity to put Algeria ahead from a corner in the 36th minute but his header bounced wide of the far post. One minute before the break and it was Slovenia’s turn to register their first meaningful shot on target when Valter Birsa shot from long-range dipping at the last moment to force keeper Faouzi Chaouchi into making a great TV save, tipping the ball over the bar. Sadly the same couldn’t be said about Algeria’s custodian late on in the game. Algeria were already at a disadvantage in the 72nd minute upon having substitute Abdelkader Ghezzal sent off just fifteen minutes after coming on due to gaining a second yellow card through handballing in the box. Seven minutes later Robert Koren sealed the game for Slovenia when hitting a shot from 25 yards out which Chaouchi allowed to bounce over him and into the back of the net. Slovenia held on to the lead to secure their first win at a major football tournament and now have a two point lead over both England and the United States in Group C. The next games in this group both come on Friday, June 18th with England facing Algeria and the USA meeting up with group leaders Slovenia.

Group D got under way in the second game of the day between Ghana and Serbia and just when we thought the competition needed a shot in the arm to really kick start it in to life this game sadly failed to provide it. Save for free-kick opportunities for Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan and Serbia’s Alexsandar Kolorov the game saw precious few chances of any note and, like the pattern set in most of the games in the FIFA World Cup so far, we had a goalless first half. The game opened up in the second half but it was still a tactical stalemate with both teams cancelling each other out but then came a red card for the aforementioned Kolorov for a foul on Gyan in the 74th minute. Eleven minutes later came the pivotal moment of the match when Serbia’s Zdravko Kuzmanović handled the ball in the box and thus set up Gyan to score from the spot to give the Black Stars victory. A disappointing Serbia lost their first game of the tournament and it is difficult to see how they can pick themselves up for their next game against Germany on Friday, June 18th.

Miro Klose and Lukas Podolski

Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski were amongst the scorers for Germany in their 4-0 hammering of Australia

Speaking of Germany they sent shockwaves through the footballing world tonight with a mesmerising performance against an Australian team with plenty of experience but lacking any quality in attack. The Socceroos‘ best chance of the match came very early when Philipp Lahm cleared a Tim Cahill header off the line in the 4th minute with Richard Garcia unable to dispatch the rebound. From then on die Mannschaft took over with Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose, whose performances and form in the German Bundesliga this season led many to question their inclusion in the squad, scoring the goals to put Germany 2-0 ahead at half-time. Most of the plaudits in the morning, though, should and will be set aside for Mesut Özil whose creativity and ability to run into any free space allowed by the Aussie defence means that he should be taken seriously by future opponents as a major threat. In the second half Germany were playing champagne football and a chance for Thomas Müller should’ve seen them further ahead before Australia’s Tim Cahill received a harshly given red card from Mexican referee Marco Antonio Rodríguez in the 56th minute. But, in any case, Müller got his goal in the 68th minute to make things comfortable for the Germans with Cacau coming off the bench to make it four just a couple of minutes later. There were no further goals but there was a demonstration of just how well Germany can keep possession when they put their minds to it and should they meet any of the favourites such as Brazil or Spain later in the tournament then they shouldn’t fear them. Australia have a chance to make amends for this ghastly defeat on Saturday, June 19th when they meet Ghana in Rustenburg.

FIFA: World Cup Guide – Part Two

Brazil

Brazil celebrate winning their fifth World Cup in 2002.

In the second part of Stoppage Time’s build-up to the FIFA World Cup, which kicks off on Friday June 11th, we profile the ten teams who have qualified from South America, Asia, and Oceania (note – FIFA rankings correct from May 26th):

BRAZIL – Winners of South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 1

The most successful country in FIFA World Cup history kept up their amazing record of having qualified for every single World Cup tournament, the only nation to have achieved this feat. Dunga’s side won their qualification group by a point from nearest challengers Chile and Paraguay. Strongly fancied to add to their tally of five World Cup wins, the last of whch saw Brazil lift the trophy in Japan/South Korea in 2002. Face tough group matches against Ivory Coast and Portugal but should have enough to qualify and go far in the tournament.

Coach:  Dunga

Star Player: Kaka

CHILE – 2nd in South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 18

The Chileans have impressed under the stewardship of Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa. Took Brazil all the way in World Cup qualifying but still managed to finish a very respectable second place. La Roja are favoured to progress to the Round of 16 stage from their group which contains favourites Spain, Switzerland and underdogs Honduras.

Coach: Marcelo Bielsa

Star Player: Humberto Suazo

PARAGUAY – 3rd in South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 31

Paraguay surprised a few people with their final position finishing third only on goal difference behind Chile but they would’ve finished top of the ten nation group had they not lost to Colombia at home on the final matchday of qualifying . Nonetheless Paraguay could spring a surprise or two in South Africa but will be fighting it out for second in their group behind Italy. Can they get the points they need against New Zealand and Slovakia to go through to the knockout stage?

Coach: Gerardo Martino

Star Player: Roque Santa Cruz

ARGENTINA – 4th in South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 7

Diego Maradona’s side qualified the hard way. After a fantastic start to the campaign Diego Maradona took over the reins of the national team from Alfio Basile a little more than halfway through qualifying. With two matches to go there was a possibility that the Argentinians had thrown away their chances of automatic qualification but a last gasp 2-1 win over Peru was followed by a 1-0 win away at eternal rivals Uruguay. The Albiceleste have perhaps the easiest group out of the heavyweight teams and should progress without too many problems against Greece, Nigeria and South Korea. But have they got what it takes to go all the way?

Coach: Diego Maradona

Star Player: Lionel Messi

URUGUAY – 5th in South America Group (followed by play-off); FIFA World Ranking = 16

Uruguay had to play against Costa Rica (4th in CONCACAF group) in a two-leg play-off after failing to secure an automatic berth during the main qualification stages. Uruguay won the first leg 1-0 away from home and things looked comfortable when they doubled their lead with a goal from Sebastian Abreu in the second leg. However the Costa Ricans equalised on the night to make it 2-1 on aggregate and Uruguay were made to sweat for their place in South Africa. Now in South Africa they face an open group fighting it out with France, Mexico and the host nation for a place in the Round of Sixteen.

Coach: Oscar Washington Tabarez

Star Player: Diego Forlán

Australia National Team

The Socceroos are appearing in their third World Cup finals

AUSTRALIA – 1st in Asia Group One; FIFA World Ranking = 20

Australia breezed through their group finishing five points clear of fellow qualifiers Japan. After losing to a harsh penalty against Italy in the 2006 World Cup the “Socceroos” will be hoping to spring a surprise in South Africa especially with a host of players plying their trade in Europe. Since World Cup qualification was assured Australia have also qualified for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup finishing top of their qualifying group over Kuwait, Oman and Indonesia. In South Africa the Aussies will face tough opposition in Germany, Serbia and Ghana and progress into the knockout stages will be far from easy.

Coach: Pim Verbeek

Star Player: Tim Cahill

JAPAN – 2nd in Asia Group One; FIFA World Ranking = 45

Although they finished five points behind Australia the Japanese team finished the same number of points ahead of Bahrain to take the second automatic qualifying spot from Asia Group One. Since World Cup qualification the Japanese have secured a place in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup topping a group containing Bahrain, Yemen and Hong Kong. Despite regular appearances in the FIFA World Cup since 1998 they have yet to get past the second round of any tournament and aren’t expected to trouble too much in a group containing Netherlands, Denmark and Cameroon.

Coach: Takeshi Okada

Star Player: Shinji Okazaki

SOUTH KOREA – 1st in Asia Group Two; FIFA World Ranking = 47

South Korea kept up their good run of qualifying for the World Cup by remaining unbeaten in Asia Group Two which pitted them against neighbours North Korea and traditional Asian heavyweights Saudi Arabia, Iran and UAE. Since World Cup qualification the South Korean team have not, unlike Australia and Japan, had to play in 2011 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers as they have an automatic berth in the tournament and have, therefore, played many friendly matches instead. Despite regular appearances in this competition South Korea are expected to struggle again in a group containing Argentina, Greece and Nigeria but one feels they could do better than the pundits expect.

Coach: Huh Jung-Moo

Star Player: Park Ji-Sung

NORTH KOREA – 2nd in Asia Group Two; FIFA World Ranking = 105

The North Koreans secured their second ever World Cup finals qualification with a runners-up finish in Asia Group Two. It was a close run thing between themselves and Saudi Arabia who finished on the same number of points. However the North Koreans’ superior goal difference proved to be crucial in the end. Since qualification for South Africa there has been competitive action for North Korea in the form of the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup in which they beat Turkmenistan in the final to qualify for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. In relation to the 2010 World Cup as much as people would love to see a modern day Pak Doo-Ik, the hero of the 1966 tournament, a repeat of his exploits seem very unlikely in a group containing Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast.

Coach: Kim Jong-Hun

Star Player: Hong Yong-Jo

NEW ZEALAND – 1st in Oceania Group (followed by play-off); FIFA World Ranking = 78

Having easily negotiated their way past New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu in Oceania qualifying, the All Whites were made to work hard against a determined Bahrain (3rd in Asia Group One) in a two-leg play-off. A Rory Fallon header just before half time in the second match in Wellington secured both their place in the finals and Fallon’s place as a Kiwi sporting hero. Since then New Zealand have struggled in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup scoring only one point in three games and finishing bottom of their group. It is expected that they will also struggle in what is to be only their second World Cup finals appearance but could have an element of surprise about them in games against Italy, Paraguay and Slovakia.

Coach: Ricki Herbert

Star Player: Ryan Nelsen

FIFA World Cup draw – The Verdict

Posted in International Football by peterbein on December 5, 2009
Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron hosted the World Cup draw in South Africa

The draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup took place in Cape Town, South Africa, yesterday. Presented by Charlize Theron (pictured) and including a host of figures from the football world including FIFA president Sepp Blatter and perhaps  the most recognisable sporting icon in the world David Beckham, the draw did throw up some intriguing individual ties and some interesting groups. “Stoppage Time” assesses the groups and the matches that should shape the fortunes at the beginning of the tournament:

GROUP A: SOUTH AFRICA, MEXICO, URUGUAY, FRANCE

The host nation should find it very tough in a group which looks like it will be very close. The French will be favourites to go through but their clash against Mexico could decide who wins the group. However the South Africans may harbour hopes of surprising Mexico in the opening game of the tournament. Uruguay, with their deadly strike force of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, will certainly fancy their chances of finishing in the top two. Their final group game against Mexico could be amongst the most intense of the championship.

GROUP B: ARGENTINA, NIGERIA, SOUTH KOREA, GREECE

Almost an exact copy of Group D in the 1994 FIFA World Cup (Argentina, Nigeria and Greece played in a group that contained Bulgaria instead of South Korea). Despite qualifying the tough way Argentina should top this group quite comfortably, the opening match against Nigeria will probably be their toughest assignment. However the Greeks may wish to spring a surprise in much the same way that they did in EURO 2004 when they became European Champions. South Korea can only expect to finish bottom.

GROUP C: ENGLAND, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ALGERIA, SLOVENIA

Almost after the draw had finished the English media were in overdrive, hyping up their country’s chances of winning the 2010 World Cup. It’s true that they should expect to top this group with relative ease. The only match of real interest is England’s opening clash with the USA, a game that throws back terrible memories for the “Home of Football”. If the Americans can repeat their 1-0 victory in the 1950 World Cup (so unbelieveable a result in those days that the English media initially reported a 10-0 victory for England!) then it would leave the group wide open. The match will have a personal edge involving the LA Galaxy footballers David Beckham and US Captain Landon Donovan, a war of words between the two earlier in the season may add a bit of extra spice to this match. Algeria and Slovenia will be fighting to avoid the wooden spoon.

GROUP D: GERMANY, AUSTRALIA, SERBIA, GHANA

Not as easy for Germany as it may appear on paper. The Australians were very unlucky to lose to the Italians in the 2006 World Cup (a dubious penalty tucked away by Francesco Totti five minutes into stoppage time) and they will hope to put up a challenge for the top spot in this group. Serbia are competing in their first finals as an independent nation and have a leader in Manchester United player Nemanda Vidic. Ghana could be a team that plays open, attacking football but their defence will concede plenty of goals. Germany are quietly optimistic that they can go far in this tournament. The matches between themselves, Australia and Serbia should determine the outcome of the group.

GROUP E: NETHERLANDS, DENMARK, CAMEROON, JAPAN

This group looks to be a fairly comfortable one for the Dutch. As I reported in my blog “FIFA World Cup draw preview – Part Three” the Dutch had a very easy group in qualifying and they will look to take that form into this group. Cameroon will be a strong contender for second place and with players like Samuel Eto’o and Geremi can give the Danes a tough challenge when they meet in their second group match. Japan have improved as a nation in the last decade but won’t be expected to trouble the other three too much.

GROUP F: ITALY, PARAGUAY, NEW ZEALAND, SLOVAKIA

The current world champions Italy won’t have too much trouble getting through this group. The opening group game between themselves and Paraguay should be among one of the better ones in the group stages. Slovakia are a tough team on their day and won’t go down without a fight. However they may be just a little too inexperienced at this level and will find it tough to get to the Round of 16. New Zealand will be ecstatic to be in South Africa but their squad is very limited, therefore expect defensive tactics from a nation that will want to avoid embarrassment in this tournament.

GROUP G: BRAZIL, NORTH KOREA, IVORY COAST, PORTUGAL

There’s a 1966 World Cup feel to this group; it was Portugal who, literally, kicked Pele and his great Brazilian team off the park (Goodison Park to be precise) and it was Portugal who had to come back from 3-0 down to defeat the surprise package of the tournament North Korea 5-3. This time, though, matches in this group involving North Korea should be more clear-cut as they’re the outsiders of this tournament. The Ivory Coast, involved in a tough group including Argentina and Holland in the 2006 World Cup, will be expecting as tough a time in 2010 but some will feel that they can beat Portugal, whose qualification for the World Cup was only confirmed via a play-off. If the Ivorians can get three points against Portugal in the opening group match then they should reach the second round.

GROUP H: SPAIN, SWITZERLAND, HONDURAS, CHILE

The current European champions Spain are currently the favourites to win the FIFA World Cup and they will be encouraged further having seen the draw. They should easily overcome the challenges of their group rivals leaving the rest to fight it out for second place. Honduras qualified thanks to events elsewhere (see blog “FIFA World Cup draw preview – Part One) but aren’t expected to get through this group, therefore the match between Switzerland and Chile (both teams’ second group match) should prove to be amongst the more important.

FIFA World Cup draw preview – Part Two

Posted in International Football by peterbein on December 2, 2009

Cafu lifts the FIFA World Cup in 2002 for Brazil

In the second part of Stoppage Time’s build-up to the FIFA World Cup draw, we profile the ten teams who have qualified from South America, Asia, and Oceania:

BRAZIL – Winners of South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 2*

The most successful country in FIFA World Cup history kept up their amazing record of having qualified for every single World Cup tournament, the only nation to have achieved this feat. Dunga’s side were a model of consistency losing only twice in the eighteen match campaign and won the group by a point from nearest challengers Chile and Paraguay. Strongly fancied to add to their tally of five World Cup wins, the last of whch saw Cafu lift the trophy in Japan/South Korea in 2002 (picture).

CHILE – 2nd in South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 17

The Chileans have impressed under the stewardship of Argentinian coach  Marcelo Bielsa and are seen as an outside chance to go far in South Africa due to their exciting brand of football.

PARAGUAY – 3rd in South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 30

Paraguay surprised a few people with their final position finishing third only on goal difference behind Chile. Had they not been defeated by Colombia at home on the final matchday of qualifying they would’ve finished top of the ten nation group. Nonetheless Paraguay could spring a surprise or two in South Africa if they get a decent draw.

ARGENTINA – 4th in South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 8

Diego Maradona’s side qualified the hard way. After a fantastic start to the campaign Diego Maradona took over the reins of the national team from Alfio Basile a little more than halfway through qualifying. With two matches to go there was a possibility that the Argentinians had thrown away their chances of automatic qualification but a last gasp 2-1 win over Peru was followed by a 1-0 win away at eternal rivals Uruguay. Despite having players such as Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano and Gonzalo Higuain the jury is out on whether “El Diego” can lead his country to a third World Cup triumph.

URUGUAY – 5th in South America Group (followed by play-off); FIFA World Ranking = 8

Uruguay had to play against Costa Rica (4th in CONCACAF group) in a two-leg play-off after failing to secure an automatic berth during the main qualification stages. Uruguay won the first leg 1-0 away from home and things looked comfortable when they doubled their lead with a goal from Sebastian Abreu in the second leg. However the Costa Ricans equalised on the night to make it 2-1 on aggregate and Uruguay were made to sweat for their place in South Africa.

AUSTRALIA – 1st in Asia Group One; FIFA World Ranking = 21

Australia breezed through their group finishing five points clear of fellow qualifiers Japan. After losing to a harsh penalty against Italy in the 2006 World Cup the “Socceroos” will be hoping to spring a surprise in South Africa especially with proven experience players such as Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell.

JAPAN – 2nd in Asia Group One; FIFA World Ranking = 43

Although they finished five points behind Australia the Japanese team finished the same number of points ahead of Bahrain to take the second automatic qualifying spot from Asia Group One. Despite regular appearances in the FIFA World Cup since 1998 they have yet to get past the second round of any tournament and aren’t expected to trouble too much in South Africa.

SOUTH KOREA – 1st in Asia Group Two; FIFA World Ranking = 52

South Korea kept up their good run of qualifying for the World Cup by remaining unbeaten in Asia Group Two, a campaign which pitted them against neighbours North Korea and traditional Asian heavyweights Saudi Arabia, Iran and UAE.

NORTH KOREA – 2nd in Asia Group Two; FIFA World Ranking = 84

The North Koreans secured their second ever World Cup finals qualification with a runners-up finish in Asia Group Two. It was a close run thing between themselves and Saudi Arabia who finished on the same number of points. However the North Koreans superior goal difference proved to be crucial in the end. As much as people would love to see a modern day Pak Doo Ik, the hero of the 1966 World Cup, knocking out some of the big boys a repeat of those exploits seem very unlikely.

NEW ZEALAND – 1st in Oceania Group (followed by play-off); FIFA World Ranking = 77

Having easily negotiated their way past New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu in Oceania qualifying, the “All Whites” were made to work hard against a determined Bahrain (3rd in Asia Group One) in a two-leg play-off. A Rory Fallon header just before half time in the second match in Wellington secured both their place in the finals and Fallon’s place as a Kiwi sporting hero. However it is expected that they will struggle in what is to be only their second finals tournament, the first being the 1982 tournament in Spain.

* FIFA World Rankings correct on December 1st, 2009.