Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Oceania: Semi-Final line-up complete as Nations Cup hots up

Posted in International Football, Oceania Football by peterbein on June 7, 2012

OFC Nations Cup 2012 logoThe semi-final line-up of the 2012 OFC Nations Cup is now known following the completion of the tournament’s group stages yesterday.

Defending champions New Zealand have made through to the last four having topped Group B on goal difference over fellow semi-finalists Solomon Islands. Both nations had a record of two wins and a draw from three games but New Zealand’s goal record in their wins over group opponents Fiji and Papua New Guinea allowed them to pip the Solomon Islands, with whom they shared a 1-1 draw yesterday, to the top of the standings.

Group A was won by Tahiti who are the only country still in the competition with a 100% record having won all of their three group matches against Samoa (10-1), New Caledonia (4-3) and Vanuatu (4-1). In a group which was saturated with goals, New Caledonia claimed second place in the group and the final semi-final spot on Tuesday when thrashing tournament whipping boys Samoa 9-0.

Tahiti will meet tournament hosts Solomon Islands in the first of tomorrow’s semi-finals before New Caledonia face off against New Zealand to decide the second Nations Cup finalists. All four countries, as a result of reaching the semi-finals, have also progressed to the third round of FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifying in the Oceania region. Before that important phase of World Cup qualifying begins in September, the OFC Nations Cup will come to a conclusion on Sunday, June 10th with the winners subsequently qualifying for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.

Oceania: New Zealand looking for back-to-back Nations Cup titles

Posted in International Football, Oceania Football by peterbein on May 31, 2012

OFC Nations Cup logoThe 2012 OFC Nations Cup will be the most important football tournament to be held in the Oceania region for many years. As well as playing for continental glory, the competition also doubles as the second round of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The top four teams will go on further in the World Cup qualifying process whilst a place in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup will also await the team who triumphs in the Nations Cup final on Sunday, June 10th.

It is all to play for in the tournament which begins on June 1st in the Solomon Islands. The host nation have never won the OFC Nations Cup, their best performance coming in 2004 where they finished second to an Australia team taking part in the competition for the final time before they switched over to the Asian Football Confederation. The Solomon Islanders have been drawn in the same group as defending champions New Zealand so the odds on topping their group appear slim but a place in the top two of Group B would see them through to the semi-finals of their home tournament.

Favourites New Zealand are still basking in the aftermath of their 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign in which they went undefeated against group opponents Italy, Paraguay and Slovakia and were unfortunate  to be eliminated on goal difference. That tournament represented real progress for the All Whites who will hope to carry off the OFC Nations Cup for the second consecutive time following their 2008 victory in which they topped a four team league table which included New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu. The champions will face off against the Fijians in their group again this time around with Fiji hoping to cause a real upset this around and get to their first tournament final. Papua New Guinea are the real underdogs in the tournament, their position in the FIFA World Ranking is 193rd (the lowest out of the eight teams), but they do contain a significant number of players from 2010 O-League champions Hekari United and will hope to transfer some top level club experience onto the international stage.

Group A seems more open and not just because of the absence of New Zealand. New Caledonia finished second in the most recent tournament in 2008 finishing seven points behind the Kiwis in the tournament table. Amongst their opponents are Tahiti whose squad includes a sizeable contingent of players from 2012 O-League finalists Tefana FC. Also in the mix are Samoa who qualified for this tournament on the back of a successful first phase in FIFA World Cup qualifying. They saw off neighbours American Samoa, Cook Islands and Tonga in order to take their place in the OFC Nations Cup. The final team in the competition is Vanuatu who are still hoping for a maiden final appearance having only ever finished as high as fourth place on four occasions, the most recent being in the four-team tournament of four years ago.

The group stage will be played out from June 1-6 where the top two teams in each group will qualify for the semi-finals of the OFC Nations Cup as well as the final round of FIFA World Cup qualifying which will begin in September this year. The semi-finals will be played on June 8th and the tournament will come to its natural conclusion on June 10th at the Lawson Tama stadium in the Solomon capital of Honiara.

Oceania: Under-17 Championship gets under way

Posted in Oceania Football by peterbein on January 9, 2011
New Zealand U-17

Hosts New Zealand are the current champions

In much the same way as the CAF African U-17 Championship is taking place at the moment in Rwanda, the Oceania version of the event also began this weekend in New Zealand. Fiji were the big winners putting nine goals past a hapless American Samoa. New Zealand are the big favourites to win the 13th edition of the competition which has only ever been won by two countries. The only other team to have tasted success in this tournament, namely Australia, no longer takes part in the competition since moving over to the Asian Football Confederation.

New Zealand don’t begin their campaign until tomorrow therefore allowing the other four teams in Group A to try and get ahead of the three-time champions. Fiji opened their campaign in fine style by putting nine goals without reply past American Samoa. The surprising thing is that America Samoa, the expected whipping boys in the group, were only 2-0 down at the half-time break but they then allowed their opponents to run riot against them, shipping another seven goals in the process. Seven players scored for the Fijians with only one of them, Akram Hussain, scoring twice. The other game in the group was a much more competitive affair with Vanuatu getting the better of Papua New Guinea with a 2-0 scoreline. Santino Mermer grabbed the opening goal for Vanuatu with just four minutes of the first half remaining before Michel Coulon sealed the win on the hour mark.

Both of the opening Group B matches took place today with Tahiti giving their opponents Tonga a good pasting whilst, in a tighter contest, Solomon Islands emerged as narrow winners over New Caledonia. Two-time runners-up Tahiti got their campaign off to a fantastic start, winning 8-0 against Tonga with Tevairoa Tehuritaua getting his name on the score sheet on no fewer than four occasions. Tonga, playing in their maiden qualifying tournament at this level, were simply no match for their more experienced adversaries. Solomon Islands had Atana Fa’arodo’s 65th minute strike to thank for separating them from New Caledonia in a evenly balanced contest. In the end Solomon Islands won 2-1 and will expect to be up against Tahiti for the group leadership.

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New Zealand: Waitakere running away with it at the halfway stage

Posted in Oceania Football by peterbein on December 19, 2010
Waitakere United

Waitakere United are dominating the ASB Premiership this season

The ASB Premiership, New Zealand’s flagship football competition, is at the halfway point in the 2010-11 season and for defending champions Waitakere United the signs are currently good. Seven games into the season and Waitakere have an eight point lead over nearest challengers Team Wellington as they have shown the rest of the league that they are far and away the best team in the competition at the moment.

The champions have won all seven of their ASB Premiership games so far including today’s 2-0 away win at last season’s losing finalists Canterbury United. Both goals were scored in the first half with Roy Krishna opening United’s account after fifteen minutes, taking his season’s tally of goals up to four. Christopher Bale doubled the lead with ten minutes to go before the break and the champions never looked back from there. Team Wellington won 5-0 at home to Otago United – Hicham Kamri bagging a brace with John Sutherland, Darren Cheriton and Emiliano Tade getting the others – to keep up the chase on the league leaders. Auckland City have had a difficult season so far but they at least ended the calendar year on a high winning 5-0 at home to Hawke’s Bay United, Adam McGeorge helping himself to a hat-trick. They consolidated third place in the standings increasing their advantage over Canterbury United to four points.

In the bottom half of the table bottom club YoungHeart Manuwatu finally registered their first win of the season beating Waikato FC 5-2. Michael White scored a hat-trick for the hosts who hadn’t even chalked up a point in the standings before today. With both Team Wellington and Otago United losing the win helped YoungHeart narrow the gap between themselves and the two teams above them to four points. The next round of fixtures will take place on the weekend of January 8-9 with Waitakere United at home to Otago United, play-off hopefuls Canterbury United against last season’s Minor Premiers Auckland City, second place Team Wellington visit YoungHeart Manuwatu and Waikato FC face Hawke’s Bay United as the business end to the regular season will begin in earnest.

New Zealand: Excitement ahead of rebranded ASB Premiership

Posted in Oceania Football by peterbein on October 13, 2010

 

Waitakere United

Waitakere United are the defending champions in New Zealand

 

Having signed a new five-year deal with ASB Bank, the former New Zealand Football Championship (NZFC) has been rebranded into the ASB Premiership starting from the 2010-11 season and it hails a new enthusiasm for the game in this part of the world which saw its national team, the All Whites, enjoy unprecedented success in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Now the football authorities in New Zealand hope for the game to grow and standards to increase in what is traditionally a rugby union stronghold and, for that to happen, small but significant steps such as the new sponsorship deal are crucial to the league’s development. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks ahead to the new season.

Auckland City and Waitakere United have held a duopoly of the domestic honours since the league’s inception in 2004-05 with the former winning the championship play-offs four times and the latter winning twice including last season’s title, winning 3-1 against surprise finalists Canterbury United. New Zealand’s equivalent of the Old Firm remain the teams to beat even if they have to balance out their domestic campaign with the oncoming “O-League” – Oceania Champions League – a competition which both teams have won twice in the last five years although neither was victorious last season. Canterbury United, largely unchanged from last season, will fancy their chances of upsetting the apple cart and will want to reach another Grand Final and make it third time lucky following defeats in 2005-06 and 2009-10. Team Wellington are another team who have title ambitions having finished in third place in the 2009-10 regular season before losing in the play-offs to eventual champions Waitakere United.

Amongst the other four teams Otago United seemingly have the best chance of breaking into the top four finishing fifth in the 2009-10 regular season and only losing out on a play-off place by virtue of an inferior goal difference to eventual finalists Canterbury United. The likes of  Hawke’s Bay United and Youngheart Manawatu will be fighting it out to avoid the bottom place in the eight team league along with last season’s wooden spoonists Waikato FC who don’t look ready just yet to emulate last season’s Canterbury United side who went from worst to very nearly first. However there is a new rule in the new-look ASB Premiership which forces clubs to have five under-20 players in their squads with an obligation for three of those players to be amongst the playing staff on each matchday so this may allow a little more unpredictability in the championship.

Champions Waitakere United begin their campaign with a home tie this weekend against Team Wellington on Sunday, twenty-four hours after Auckland City opens the season with an away trip to Waikato FC. The first meeting between the Big Two will happen on November 7th when Auckland City host Waitakere United for their first home game of the domestic season. The three other games on that weekend see Otago United, Team Wellington and Youngheart Manawatu welcoming Waikato FC, Canterbury United and Hawke’s Bay United respectively. Can any of those six teams finally topple the top two and claim a first ever title? Keep in touch with Stoppage Time at all of the crucial points of the new season.

 

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 – Oceania

Posted in International Football, Oceania Football by peterbein on July 12, 2010
New Zealand v Italy

New Zealand (in white) were unbeaten in their group but still failed to qualify for the knock out stages

Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the fortunes of each continent in this year’s FIFA World Cup. We begin with a look at Oceania who could only field one entrant in the competition and were proudly represented by New Zealand.

The All Whites had only ever entered the FIFA World Cup finals once before in 1982 when they failed to gain a point in any of their three group matches. New Zealand, therefore, would perhaps have been happy just to gain a solitary point in this year’s tournament before a ball had been kicked. It was testament to their competitiveness and character that they were to be ultimately disappointed with the three points they gained by virtue of drawing all three games in South Africa.

In their first game Rikki Herbert’s New Zealand team played against Slovakia and were a match for their European opponents but it seemed, as the game reached second half stoppage time, that Robert Vittek’s 50th minute goal would be enough to separate the two sides. Winston Reid, the New Zealand central defender, had other ideas and headed home with virtually the last touch of the match. This gave the All Whites confidence ahead of their clash with defending world champions Italy and it was dreamland for the Antipodeans after just seven minutes when Shane Smeltz gave New Zealand a shock lead. Italy equalized via the penalty spot on the half hour mark and many people expected the Azzurri to go on from there but the New Zealand team remained resolute and very nearly stole the win at the end of the game but Chris Wood’s late effort just went wide of the post. This turned out to be a crucial miss in the end as New Zealand were unable to score past their final group opponents Paraguay in what was a goalless stalemate. So New Zealand, in contrast to their first World Cup appearance twenty eight years earlier, remained unbeaten but were unfortunate to see themselves finish third behind Paraguay and Slovakia. At least they had the consolation prize of finishing above the hapless Italians.

So what’s the future for football in New Zealand? Ryan Nelsen’s suggestion that his country should follow the lead of neighbours Australia by joining the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) not only seems sensible but, given time, inevitable. If the sport is to grow in what is normally a haven for rugby union then it needs to make such a move in order to ensure that the national team gets the required level of quality opposition on a regular basis. With all due respect to their qualifying opponents such as New Caledonia, Fiji or Vanuatu, the All Whites cannot afford to be playing against such sub-standard opposition unless they are also incorporated into the AFC footballing fraternity. The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) has done a lot to promote the game in the region but once the precedent of Australia joining the AFC came to fruition then it was only going to end up with New Zealand wishing to do the same thing. If New Zealand does eventually join the AFC then the OFC will become virtually redundant and, sad though that is, it will be the result of realpolitik in light of recent movements.

Hopefully we haven’t seen the end of New Zealand as a growing football force.

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FIFA: Groups E and F Review

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 25, 2010
Keisuke Honda

Keisuke Honda was amongst the goalscorers for Japan against Denmark

Figures given are as follows: Games Played/Points Scored

GROUP E: NETHERLANDS 3/9; JAPAN 3/6; DENMARK 3/3; CAMEROON 3/0

Whisper it quietly but if there’s a team who are creeping in under the radar to win the FIFA World Cup then that could be the Netherlands. They won all three group matches to finish with maximum points and look like they could be a prime contender to lift football’s greatest prize. Having enjoyed a bit of good fortune to take the lead in games against Denmark and Japan the Dutch were always in control in their final game against Cameroon and Bert Van Marwijk must now keep a lid on expectations and keep his players’ feet on the ground. Japan made history by qualifying beyond the group stage for the first time outside of their native land with the 1-0 defeat to Netherlands being their only reverse. Two fantastic free-kick goals in the third match against Denmark set-up them up for a famous win and they now get to look forward to a Round of 16 tie against Paraguay.

GROUP F: PARAGUAY 3/5; SLOVAKIA 3/4; NEW ZEALAND 3/3; ITALY 3/2

Well who would’ve thought it? The defending world champions not only going out of the competition but finishing below rank tournament outsiders New Zealand in the process. Not very much went right for Italy in their three group matches but the truth is that they were just not good enough. In any case credit should be given to Paraguay who topped the group with a win and two draws and they were joined by Slovakia who played their part in the game of the tournament so far when defeating Italy by three goals to two. Arguably the unluckiest team in the competition are the All Whites of New Zealand who were unbeaten in three games and still failed to progress to the next stage but Rikki Herbert’s men can be rightly proud of their performances in this tournament which gives them a platform to build on for future competition. Paraguay will play Japan in Pretoria on Tuesday whilst Slovakia’s reward is a tough tie with the Netherlands in Durban on Monday afternoon.

Vladimír Weiss

Vladimír Weiss led his Slovakia team to the knock-out stages after a 3-2 win over Italy.

FIFA: South Americans cruise to victory; Italy held by New Zealand

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 20, 2010
Shane Smeltz

Shane Smeltz gave New Zealand the lead in their 1-1 draw against world champions Italy

The FIFA World Cup doesn’t fail to surprise with New Zealand gaining another point in the competition at the expense of world champions Italy who are failing to find their form. This draw means that Paraguay are top of Group F having beaten Slovakia 2-0 earlier in the day. In the final match of the day Brazil ensured that a sense of normality remained at the tournament with a 3-1 victory over the Ivory Coast to remain top of Group G although the game was marred by a controversial red card shown to Kaká.

With one point already in the bank after a dramatic last-gasp equalizer in their opening match against Slovakia, New Zealand were hoping not to be on the receiving end of a heavy defeat to world champions Italy. The Azzurri had to play Federico Marchetti in goal in place of the injured Gianluigi Buffon but were otherwise unchanged from the team that scraped a 1-1 draw against Paraguay. Sadly for the Italians they would have to come from behind again as an early New Zealand free-kick found Shane Smeltz, the Australian A-League’s top scorer in the last two seasons, unmarked in the box although there was a heavy suspicion of offside about the goal. Alas, for Italy, the linesman kept his flag down and the All Whites were ahead but not for long. Ricardo Montolivo had already come close to scoring when his long-range effort hit a post before Daniele de Rossi, who scored the equalizer for Italy in their first game, was brought down in the box after Tommy Smith had pulled his shirt. Vincenzo Iaquinta was at hand to convert the penalty in the 28th minute and restore parity for Italy.

The second half would see a flurry of chances from Italy with New Zealand’s defence resisting wave after wave of attack from the defending World Cup holders. Perhaps the best chance of the second half, though, fell New Zealand’s way when substitute Chris Wood evaded the attention of Fabio Cannavaro and shot narrowly wide of the post with just three minutes remaining. Had that have gone in it would’ve set-up one of the great World Cup shocks but, nevertheless, the All Whites got what they deserved from this game even though they were under pressure for significant periods of the game.

Earlier in the afternoon a rather less exciting game was decided in favour of Paraguay who were relatively untroubled from a Slovakia side who didn’t have enough creativity to break down the solid defence from Gerardo Martino’s men. After a pretty dire opening twenty-five minutes of the game Enrique Vera scored the opening goal for Paraguay as he received a pass just inside the penalty box and shot with the outside of his right foot to give La Albirroja the lead. If anybody expected the Slovakians to wake up from their slumber after the goal then they were to be disappointed as the Eastern Europeans had no answer to Paraguay’s superior play. The only surprise was that it took until five minutes before time until Paraguay sealed the deal through a Cristian Riveros power driver from the edge of the box after an Aureliano Torres free-kick had eventually worked its way to him. With two games played in Group F it is Paraguay who lead the way with four points, followed by Italy and New Zealand on two and Slovakia prop up the rest with one point. The final games in the group take place at 16:00 local time on Thursday with Paraguay winning the group should they overcome New Zealand and Italy hoping to secure at least second place with a win over Slovakia.

Luis Fabiano

Luis Fabiano was on target twice in Brazil's 3-1 win over Ivory Coast

In the final game played on Sunday Brazil impressed in a 3-1 victory over Sven-Göran Eriksson’s Ivory Coast to stay top of the group with a perfect six points from six. Luís Fabiano found his scoring boots in the 25th minute when put through by Kaká to fire the ball into the roof of the net and Dunga’s troops never looked like losing it from there. Just five minutes into the second half and Brazil had doubled their lead although there was a suspicion of handball in the build-up to Luís Fabiano’s second goal in which he took on three defenders before firing the ball home from twelve yards out. Brazil were coasting it thirteen minutes later as Kaká went down the left hand side and pulled the ball back to Elano who caught the Ivorian defence napping and slipped it past the keeper from close range. Didier Drogba did pull one back for the Ivory Coast on 79 minutes when converting a right-sided cross from Yaya Touré with his head to bring an ounce of respectability back to the score.

Sadly the match began to get tetchy and, with two minutes of normal time to play, Kaká was the victim of the most ridiculous refereeing decision of the tournament so far when he was adjudged to have hit Abdel-Kader Keïta in the face although they merely touched shoulders at worst. Keïta went down holding his face and the referee showed the red card to the Brazilian star who could face anything from a 1-4 match ban depending on the outcome of a FIFA enquiry into the incident. Thankfully there were no further flashpoints after that but Dunga’s night would’ve been soured somewhat after the incident. Nonetheless Brazil should be happy with their night’s work and they will end the group phase of the competition on Friday with their match against Portugal in Durban.