Thursday, December 16, 2010

AFF Suzuki Cup 2010 Finals Matchday 8

Semi-final 2, leg 1 in Jakarta, Indonesia

Philippines 0 Indonesia 1

Christian Gonzalez headed home the only goal of the game on 30 minutes to give the Indonesians the slender one-goal advantage at Bung Karno Stadium in the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup semi-finals on Thursday.

Originally to be held in the Philippines, the game was shifted to Indonesia as the designated hosts did not have the facilities that meet the minimum FIFA standard for an international tournament.

Despite playing away, the Azkals put up a credible performance against a capacity Senayan crowd and nearly levelled the score in the second half when Phil Younghusband's acrobatic shot was headed off the line by an Indonesian defender.

Both sides will remain in Jakarta for the second leg of the semis which will be played at the same ground on Sunday evening.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AFF Suzuki Cup 2010 Finals Matchday 7

Semi final 1, leg 1 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Malaysia 2 Vietnam 0

Defending champions Vietnam lost their second game of the Suzuki Cup when a Safee Sali double handed the hosts a two-goal advantage in the first leg of their semi-final clash at Bukit Jalil Stadium on Wednesday.

Despite throwing everything at the Tigers, the Vietnamese could not find a way past the stubborn Malaysia rearguard and were restricted to half attempts outside the box.

It took a goalkeeping blooper at the other end to hand Malaysia the lead early in the second half when Safee headed in off an indirect free kick which the custodian flapped and allowed the ball to zip into the net.

He doubled the lead at the closing stages of the game when he latched on to the loose ball and smashed home the rebound in the box.

The second leg will take place at My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi on Saturday evening. Should the Malaysians hang on for an aggregate or penalty shootout win, this will be the first time K. Rajagobal's men will reach the final in the biennial tournament since its first edition back in 1996.

Monday, December 13, 2010

All-Asian Quarters Result

Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma of South Korea defeated hosts Al Wahda of UAE 4-1 to earn a semi-final date with UEFA Champions League holders Inter Milan on Wednesday 15 December.

Full match report from can be found here. The winner of this semis will either meet Internacional of Brazil or Tout Puissant Mazembe of Tanzania in the final, with the losers fighting out for third-placing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Nicky Butt Will Play in The AFC Cup

According to BBC Sport, former England international Nicky Butt has agreed to a contract that will see him feature for Hong Kong giants South China until May 2011.

This will also probably be quietly celebrated among the fans in India, Thailand and Indonesia as the former Manchester United, Birmingham City and Newcastle United midfielder is also going to play for his new employers at the group stage.

One-time semi-finalists South China are pooled in Group H of the AFC Cup alongside Indian club Kingfisher East Bengal, Thai FA Cup winners Chonburi FC and Indonesian side Persipura Jayapura.

Imagine the bald midfield general commanding his colleagues at sweltering heat in the dusty pitch in India, bear with the equatorial humidity in Thailand as well as deal with more fanatical and crazed fans in Indonesia, especially all calling out for his name. That will be a very nice sight.

2010 FIFA Club World Cup Round 1

Result of first day of match action in Abu Dhabi, UAE

Al Wahda (United Arab Emirates) 3 Hekari United (Papua New Guinea) 0

Hosts Al Wahda will now face AFC Champions League 2010 winner Seongnam Ilhwa Chunwa of South Korea in the quarter-finals for the right to face UEFA Champions League 2010 winner Inter Milan of Italy.

AFF Suzuki Cup Group B: Vietnam 1 Singapore 0 - The Writing Was On the Wall Before the Tournament

Have the Lions, and their national head coach Radjoko Avramovic, appeared to have learnt anything from the debacles they had endured this year? If the result that sent Singapore crashing out of the AFF Suzuki Cup meant any significance, it was simply nope.

Similar tactics, just as it was two years ago when we crashed out to our regional nemesis in the semi-finals of the previous edition. The same faces in the squad, barring a few absentees this time due to injury and other reasons. Shahril Ishak may be the new national team captain, but there is still no real leader in the team. Same old, same old.

In the prepartory tournament Singapore participated in in the same nation where our regional aspirations were put to rest, there were some new caps, with one player Adrian Dhanaraj of Geylang United featuring significantly.

Then in February's King's Cup, a few players such as Jeremy Chiang also earned their maiden international caps. Looking back right now, anyone could not help but wonder whether the erstwhile Serbian tactician had given away international caps like freebies dished out at MacDonald's or elsewhere in Singapore.

But when it came to naming the provisional squad for this biennial tournament, the same faces came back into the fold. Nothing wrong with that, but when a few potential contenders for the final squad places, save for Shahdan Sulaiman, did not even make that cut, questions ought to be raised.

Have Avramovic, team manager Eugene Loo, assistant coach Aleksandar Bozenko or goalkeeper coach Lee Bee Seng travelled around Indonesia enough, if at all, to assess the form of the internationals based there? Phone calls to the coaches of clubs such as Persija Jakarta, Arema and Persib Bandung or Indonesian contacts might not be sufficient.

Then there is the Young Lions. Sure, this Football Association of Singapore club side is meant to help promising young footballers. But the one player after the Baihakki, Shahril Ishak and Ridhuan cohort who has emerged as a serious contender for the starting eleven has never even played for this club side.

The only Young Lions to feature in the final squad of 22 were Afiq Yunos and Safuwan Baharudin. Neither excelled in what was a troubled season for the club, and were part of the Asian Games team that flopped in Guangzhou even before the flame was lit.

There was also the ingenuity of Football Association of Singapore technical director Slobodan Pavkovic. Following the National Football Syllabus which makes him a perfect curriculum director candidate for the Ministry of Education in Singapore, he decided to introduce the 4-2-3-1 tactical system to be implemented from the youth teams all the way up to the senior international squad.

Again nothing wrong, ideally this should be the way youth footballers ought to be taught in their football education. Just that Avramovic's tactical evolvement over the years from 4-2-1-3 in 2004 to the present 4-4-2 variations conflicted with his fellow Serbian's plans. Perhaps behind the walls of the Jalan Besar buildings, both men could have clashed over their differing football ideologies.

Now looking into Avramovic's seven-year plus tenure with the Singapore national team, the present class of 2010 is the product of his tactical and football policies he has imprinted in the side, especially with the Young Lions.

Many of the present local-born players in the team, including several foreign talents, have come through this Young Lions factory. They have played together in Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games and other international tournaments, so the familiarity is there.

But is this familiarity among the players also possibly shaped into different factions into the team, as this side is without a genuine leader who can rally the players on and off the pitch following the exit of Aide Iskandar and S Subramani in 2007?

While there is some talent, somehow the pieces are unable to fit nicely as one complete jigsaw puzzle on the pitch after 2007. It is strange that the players, barring the above-mentioned recently retired former internationals, who were part of the successful Asean teams in 2005 and 2007, are now flops at the regional stage.

If there is still the 2011 AFC Asian Cup finals to look forward to, then the Lions will probably regroup and aim to impress at the group stage had they held Jordan to a draw in Amman in March. But no, now there is nothing to look forward to on the international calendar for the next six months at least.

After enduring so many frustrations with the Singapore football system, the players as well as the national team, could this finally be the breaking point for Avramovic, one of the longest serving national team coaches in Singapore's history?

If so, already pundits and fans alike have thrown in names to replace the Serb. But Bolabang believes the hot seat will eventually fall on Pavkovic, whose last coaching job was in the Middle East with the Kuwaiti national team, and Singapore could see a repeat of what had happened to Jan Poulsen when he took on the dual role of technical director and national coach.

AFF Suzuki Cup 2010 Finals Matchday 6

Group B

Philippines 0 Myanmar 0 (Nam Dinh, Vietnam)
Vietnam 1 Singapore 0 (Hanoi, Vietnam)

Three-time Asean champions Singapore joined Thailand as the early casualties in the AFF Suzuki Cup after crashing 1-0 to co-hosts and defending champions Vietnam in their final Group B match at My Dinh Stadium on Wednesday evening.

The only goal of the game came through a sucker-punch counter-attacking manuvere following a clearance of a Lions' corner just after the half-hour.

Pham Thanh Luong provided the low cross on the right for Nguyen Vu Phong, who was free on the left side, to slide the ball in between Hassan Sunny's legs and into the net for the only goal of the game.

Despite sustained pressure from the Lions in the second half, the Vietnamese held on for the win they needed to reach the semis.

Meanwhile, Myanmar held surprise packages Philippines to a goalless in the other match played at Nam Dinh. The point was sufficient enough for the Azkals to finish second in the group behind the co-hosts and make the last four for the first time in their regional football history.

Final Group B Standings

   Team              P  W  D  L   F   A  Pts
1 Vietnam         3   2   0   1   8   3  6
2 Philippines    3   1   2   0   3   1  5
3 Singapore     3   1   1   1   3   3  4
4 Myanmar       3   0   1   2   2   9  1

So the complete two-leg semi-final match-ups to be played as follows:-

15 Dec - Malaysia v Vietnam (Kuala Lumpur or Shah Alam)
16 Dec - Philippines v Indonesia (to be played at a neutral venue)
18 Dec - Vietnam v Malaysia (Hanoi)
19 Dec - Indonesia v Philippines (Jakarta)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bryan Robson Should Remain Manchester United Ambassador

Not every great player becomes an equally great manager.

After flopping with English club sides Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion, former Manchester United and England legend Bryan Robson has not only failed to help Thailand reach the 2011 AFC Asian Cup finals in Qatar, but also contrived to send the once-fearsome powerhouses out of the AFF Suzuki Cup at the group stage.

Even former English teammate Peter Reid has modestly managed to bring the Thais to the final of the last edition before returning to familiar pastures in England. What an amazing turnaround Robson has done for Thailand in his more-than-a-year tenure.

The last time a manager, who was a former German World Cup finalist named Sigfried Held, failed to get the Thais past the group stage of the biennial tournament, then named the AFF Tiger Cup, he was promptly given the boot - three months after the debacle while seeing his home country humble his employers 5-1 in Bangkok in between.

Robson is unlikely to escape the long knives that await him when the team return to Bangkok (with probably protesters from both political camps waiting to throw rotten tom yam and all) following the latest fiasco.

When he was first appointed by FIFA Executive Committee member and Football Association of Thailand (FAT) president Worawi Makudi to succeed Reid after the latter left to become Tony Pulis' sidekick at Premiership club Stoke City, it was supposed to be a personal revival of his flagging managerial fortunes and help bring the Thais to a new level of glory after Kiatisuk Senamuang, J Surachai and company in the last decade.

It was anything but. After beating Singapore 3-1 away in his first competitive game in charge of the team in the Asian Cup qualifiers, he then immediately lost the home leg to the same team days later in Bangkok.

Following failure to qualify for the Asian Cup, which ended a streak of appearances that had started from 1992 to 2007, he had now failed to gel a team of talented individuals to get the results that mattered.

The lack of preparation (Robson only had one day before the first group game to train the squad as a whole after the majority were involved in the Thai FA Cup final a week before the international tournament) could be pointed out as a major factor behind this fiasco.

But the combination of physical fatigue and probable unwillingness of the Thais to fully cooperate with him and Steve Darby, former assistant coach now technical director at FAT, has lef to this fiasco, possibly even worse than the 2004 situation. When a team refuse to listen to their head coach, his days are numbered.

Like UEFA President Michel Platini, Sir Bobby Charlton, Diego Maradona and many legends before him, the former brave midfield general should possibly have realised his true limits in terms of managing a football team in an environment where results mean life or death for the man in the hot seat.

He should now concentrate on doing what he has done best in his other present football capacity - to be a global ambassador for English giants Manchester United. His passion and enthusiasm for the game will inspire many youths worldwide to pick up the sport, and his presence in these lands will help cultivate the game.

But World Cup 2014 in Brazil for Thailand - as envisioned by the man Worawi himself - after all these under this gentleman? You are having a laugh.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

AFF Suzuki Cup 2010 Finals Matchday 5

Group A

Malaysia 5 Laos 1 (Palembang, Indonesia) 
Indonesia 2 Thailand 1 (Jakarta, Indonesia)

Thailand crashed out of the AFF Suzuki Cup group stage after losing 2-1 to co-hosts Indonesia in their final group game at Bung Karno Stadium on Tuesday evening.

Suree Sukha gave the visitors the lead in the match they must win to seal their progression into the last four, but two late penalties from substitute Bambang Pangmukas ensured the Indonesians maintain their perfect record in the competition.

Pipping the Thais to second spot in the group was Malaysia, who prevailed by crushing Laos 5-1 in the simultaneous game held at Jakabaring Stadium in Palembang.

Amri Yahaya netted a brace in the first half, with Laos forward Lamnao Singto replying in between. Further goals in the second half from Amirulhadi Zainal, Nohshahrul Idlan Talaha and Mahali Jasuli sealed the semi-finals place for K. Rajagobal's men.

Indonesia will now visit Group B runners-up in the first leg of the semi-finals on 16 December, with the return leg held in Jakarta three days later.

Meanwhile, Malaysia will host Group A winners on 15 December, before travelling away on 18 December.

Final Group A standings

   Team         P W D L F A  Pts
1 Indonesia  3  3  0  0 13 2  9
2 Malaysia   3  1  1  1  6 6    4
3 Thailand    3  0  2  1  3 4    2
4 Laos          3  0  1  2  3 13 1

Tampines Rovers v Nicky Butt no more...

Nicky Butt (right) celebrates after scoring on his debut for South China. (Photo by AP, taken from BBC Sport.)
It could have been more than 5,000 turning up at Jalan Besar if former England international and Manchester United midfielder Nicky Butt extends his present three-month contract with Hong Kong champions South China and plays in Singapore for his club in the AFC Cup 2011.

Alas, this is not to be as South China are drawn into Group H alongside Thai FA Cup champions Chonburi FC, Indonesian side Persipura Jayapura and Indian side Kingfisher East Bengal.

While Tampines Rovers will await one of the losers of the 2011 AFC Champions League playoffs, V-League champions Hanoi T&T and Maldivian FA Cup winners Victory SC, it is the fate of the draw that ensures Butt will not step onto Singapore soil since the Red Devils' Asian tour in 1999.

The Indonesians will be relatively cool about all things English football, but the Thais and Indians could go crazy over this potential appearance of one of the most famed Fergie Fledglings, who emerged alongside David Backham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and the Neville brothers to become one of the stars for Manchester United.

The Thais will fancy their aging ace Therdsak Chaiman pitting his abilities against the one-time World Cupper while the Indians, with their one-time affiliation with English club side Leicester City, could relish his presence on their soil.

As for the Singaporeans, they will have to keep waiting for the next English star after Robbie Fowler, Jamie Carragher and Bryan Robson in 2009. Until then, they will have to be content with the Maldivians, Vietnamese and possibly the Arab shiekhs.