Five things from….Chile 3 Australia 1

We should’ve all packed up and turned off the TV long before this game started. Surely nothing could beat THAT game and you could imagine ITV’s producers trying to think of ways to suggest BBC’s coverage of the Spain v Netherlands game was nothing compared to what we could expect from this game. Alas I’d failed to find any Chilean beer in SE9 so the Beer World Cup would take a brief diversion for the game in the exact centre of South America in Cuiabá.

1. Lucas Neill – when Panini brought out their sticker album for the World Cup they had included Lucas Neill. This shocked me in two ways. Firstly the horrible memories of seeing a player who makes BFF look like he’s been at Weightwatchers huff and puff around Upton Park. Secondly, up until a few weeks ago he was still registered to play in England, with Watford. Must have been a bad season for the Hornets. Good old Lucas was on an eye watering £60k per week six years ago at Upton Park.

2. Globe trotters – the Australian squad play in thirteen different countries. That takes some beating and may explain the fact that for the vast majority of the game they played as complete strangers, often bring eight men behind the ball in the final third yet Chile still dominated possession – with 74% of the ball at half-time.

3. Rubbish use of advertising – What’s that all about? As anyone who works in the domain name world will know, the new .futbol domain is available AND McDonalds own it. So why not use it? Relevant, catchy and easy to remember…Rainham Steel, Rainham Steel, Rainham Steel.

Marco4. A Chilean player called Gary – Seriously?  That’s like having someone born in Nottingham called Marco.  I can only assume he was named after a famous Gary from the late 1980’s.  There could only be one man – Gary Coleman from Different Strokes or perhaps Gary Lineker after his Golden Boot performance in Mexico in 1986…which was ten months before he was born…Interesting.

5. Thank God for goal line technology – Just four games in and FIFA can breathe a sigh of relief when Wilkinson clears off the line and the referee gets a message to say “no goal”.  Goal shouted the Chilean fans, who according to certain newspapers all looked like this.  No goal said GoalControl thanks to their secret eye in the net.

The Beer World Cup

With a lack of Chilean beer in the World Cup fridge we had to turn to Current Mrs Fuller’s wine cellar (cupboard under the stairs). And what did we find? A cheeky Chilean Casillero del Diablo, the official wine of Manchester United no less, and a Hunter Valley white. One glass of each? Go on then…

Chilean Red 2 Australian White 2

The fact we hadn’t chilled the white counteracted the fact the red hadn’t had time to “breathe”. Even so it was a tight run contest with nothing coming between the two apart from a bowl of spicy Jalapeño pretzel pieces at half time. A bit like watching an episode of Emmerdale when you are in a Bond marathon…it’s OK but you’d rather go back to seeing 007. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

The Kit World Cup – Day two

Nike – 6pts
adidas – 3pts
Puma – 3pts


Commonwealth game

It wasn’t all about England v Poland last week in London as the capital hosted another International match.  So we sent our Dagger’s Diary team down to Craven Cottage to investigate.

International football is on a bit of a slippery slope at the moment. The rise to pre-eminence of the Champions League in Europe has meant that, within these shores at least, the international game is not taken as seriously as it is perceived to have been in the past. Obviously for many people, the national team remains as important as ever, but the recent snippets in the media about the possible change of schedule to accommodate the 2022 World Cup has raised the issue of what really matters. The Premier League clearly doesn’t want any kind of switch, although the FA don’t appear to be too fussed, probably because they look like they have lost all control over their creation. From the US , the arguments are whether the World Cup broadcast contract would have to be renegotiated, as a January/February World Cup would clash with the Superbowl. And then of course, there are the Winter Olympics to consider. Someone didn’t do their homework when they elected Qatar to stage that one, did they?

100_7308Although tonight’s game at Wembley is a very vital qualifier, the thorny issue of friendly games is never far from the surface. Every now and again, rent-a-quote managers will say that they should be got rid of, and that they serve no purpose. There was though, a recent suggestion that friendly internationals could become a thing of the past. There is talk of a UEFA European Nations League, with teams put into divisions, and with promotion and relegation, which would run alongside the tournament qualifiers. Apparently, this would not increase the amount of internationals played, but would at least mean a competitive environment for all games, rather than the dull sterile nothingness that accompanies so many fixtures these days. The write up for the plan was featured on the Guardian website in an article by Owen Gibson and Ben Lyttleton, and although it is only at the discussion stage (and there were several others put forward), it might be worth a try.

Tuesday 15th October 2013, Australia v Canada, Craven Cottage

When I was asked if I was going to football on Tuesday night, I replied that yes, I would be going to a game. Most took this to mean that I was heading to Wembley for the England game, but when I announced that I was off to Australia v Canada, most took a second glance, before I told them that it was being played at Fulham. Given my penchant for travelling to far flung games, I’m fairly certain that at least a couple of people thought I would actually be flying to Sydney for this one. I mean, I enjoy my football, but I’m not flying for twenty four hours, just for one game. If there had been a few on offer, then maybe…

The current FIFA world rankings put Australia in fifty-third place, and third in the Asian Confederation. Having already qualified for the World Cup and hosting the next AFC Asian Cup, it means that their ranking might not improve that much, especially with the only competitive games coming in Brazil , before the tournament in January 2015. Canada are exactly fifty-three places behind Australia , in 106th place, which is only enough for thirteenth in the CONCACAF region.

Neither team though are coming into this game in great form. Australia have been duffed 6-0 in their last two games (admittedly against Brazil and France ), but from reading their media reports, it has been the manner of the performance that has been most worrying. This is probably the reason why, with the second of those hammerings still fresh in the mind, they sacked the head coach Holger Osieck and have replaced him with (on a temporary basis), with Aurelio Vidmar.

If Australia have not been at their best recently (four straight defeats since a draw with South Korea in June), then Canada have been poor as well. Their last goal was scored in a March defeat to Japan in Doha , and they have followed that up with six games where they haven’t found the net. In fact, that’s their only goal in nine games in 2013, and in September, were held 0-0 by Mauritania , before losing 0-1 a few days later. For the record, Mauritania are 150th in the world.

Australia and Canada have only met eight times at this level, and six of those were back in 1924, when the Canadian team toured. Two wins each (and one draw) meant a sixth and deciding game, which Australia won 1-0. The last meetings were in 1993, when Australia won a World Cup play off tie on penalties.

If I had researched that little lot before deciding to pay out for my ticket, then I may not have bothered. The prospect of sitting at home, watching England v Poland was not a particularly tempting one (purely for nervous reasons) and if I at least had another game to watch instead of ours, then perhaps the evening wouldn’t be so bad. Of course, I could have stayed in and not watched the England game, but the temptation to switch over during the advert breaks of Rosemary & Thyme would have been too much.

As we leave the train, and start our walk from Putney Bridge , the main thing that strikes us is the lack of anyone about. Normally there would be a sizeable crowd heading from the station, but the fifteen minute walk is undertaken with practically no one around us. It’s strangely eerie as we get to the stadium, with more stewards on duty than customers. Even in the Fulham store, there is as many staff as there are visitors.

100_7310Luckily, Dan has bought his ipad, which means that we will be able to watch the England game if the mood takes us, although one of the stewards informs us that they are planning on showing the game on the screens in the concourse areas.

As kick off approaches, the ipad is out of its cover, and is switched on. We see the kick off from Wembley, and then a minute later, our game is under way. At this point, it is decided that the device should be put away, in case we focus on that game, rather than the one in front of us. As if to emphasize the point, within thirty seconds of kick off, Australia score. Canada are all over the shop on the edge of their area, and a cross from Bresciano on the Australian right eventually finds its way to Jason Kennedy, who heads home. There are quite a few people still coming in with an 8pm start obviously far too early for their schedules, and they have missed the opening goal.

To be fair though, the rest of the half makes you think that they might have been better not coming in. Canada create a couple of good chances but while one produces an excellent save, the second is from a free header in the middle of the goal, which is straight at the keeper, who pushes it over the bar. While De Rosario is trying his best, the rest of the team aren’t up to much. The main danger for the “away” team is Simeon Jackson, but there is a limit as to what he can do, and missing chances like they have will only result in one thing.

That’s not to say Australia are great, because they aren’t much better. Short passing from either side goes astray, both seem incapable of holding the ball for very long, and aside from another glaring miss from Canada , there aren’t many more opportunities in the half. Canada have this idea of trying to build from the back which is all well and good, but on more than one occasion, they quickly lose possession, and often only thirty yards or so from their own goal. It’s poor stuff, and while I quietly ponder to myself why I have bothered, Dan shows his opinion of the game by spending most of the half scouring twitter and checking out the other scores from around Europe .

We are fortunate enough to catch the first goal at Wembley, and that brightens our mood somewhat, but as the players leave the field at the interval, there are already some around us that are making arrangements to go to a bar nearby. It sounds like a much better idea than being here.

There are the normal plethora of substitutions as the second half starts, and none really improve the game, although there are a couple of bright spots. The Australian right back (Rhys Williams) isn’t bad, but looks more comfortable going forward than defending. Lucas Neill is having an easy night of it at centre back, and Marco Bresciano is still a class act, although there isn’t a lot of pace about now. For Canada, Jackson stands out but is replaced in the second half, and after that, most of their shots either head towards the Hammersmith End of the ground without troubling the goalkeeper, or are horribly mis-hit wide of the goal.

Australia score two more in the second half. The first comes ten minutes in, when a shot by Williams is deflected in from in front of the Canadian keeper by Vidosic. Goal number three arrives fifteen minutes before the end, and it is from another header, this time Mathew Leckie is able to out jump a not very impressive defence to complete the scoring. The second half is Australian dominated, and their win is deserved.

Looking at this with one eye at the World Cup is difficult. Australia will probably have appointed a new, full-time coach by then. This team doesn’t look anything like the 2006 vintage which pushed the eventual winners Italy all the way in the second round game. The priority for Australia must be the Asian Cup in January 2015; on home soil they will be expected to progress to at least the last four. On this evidence, winning the tournament may be a bit much, but home advantage, plus more games as a unit will help.

For Canada, it’s difficult to know where to start. Since joining the MLS in 2007, Toronto FC have been a bit of a disappointment, and although they have since been joined by Vancouver and Montreal, a look at their current squad lists shows just over a dozen Canadian players. Progress in the upcoming u17 World Cup would be good, but there is a lot of work to do before the national team emulate the 1986 side, and plays in the World Cup. They will need to get the youngsters more experience, because on the basis of this game, they aren’t up to it yet. Before it gets better for the Canadian mens team, it might get worse.


Never mind the cricket, here come the Socceroos!

After the success of our two Arabic adventurers in bringing us their Asian Diary from the first week of the Asian Cup we were delighted to secure the services for one game only of Jon Lawrence, author of Astoldby,me.  as well as being an ex-colleague, he is one of the most travelled men I know so who better to report on the semi-final featuring his native Australia and Uzbekistan.

It was purely by chance that I found myself in Doha for the Asian Cup semi-final clash between the Socceroos and Uzbekistan’s White Wolves. Just a few days earlier, I had been told by my employer that I was required to spend a week with our client here while one of my colleagues installed their new system.

I reluctantly admit that I had not been following the Asian Cup closely – I’d been very busy at work and the matches were on at ungodly hours of the morning (and not on free-to-air TV). I was only vaguely aware that it was even in Qatar.

A few minutes of research later, I was very excited, having discovered that my trip would coincide with the Semi-Finals, with the Socceroos looking much more positive under new coach Holger Osieck and about to tackle the Iraqis in the Quarters. Continue reading

Day 7: Our work here is done

Day 7 and it is time for our intrepid duo to head back home after a week in the desert.  But not before just one more game – and what a game too – Australia v South Korea. Over to you Brian.

Our work here is nearly done. Today is the final day for us here in Doha, and it’s been great. The weather has been excellent, we’ve not managed to spend that much (mainly because there hasn’t been much that either of us has wanted to buy), and the football has been ok as well. Our last game of the trip is probably the biggest of the week; Australia v South Korea.

So, looking back on our week, a summary. Clearly much work needs to be done. The transport has been a bit chaotic at times, and if this was to be the structure put in place for 2022, then it will all go horribly wrong. The idea of a mono-rail, or any type of railway may help, but is this going to be restricted to Doha? I can not see the necessary stadiums being built in one city, so they are going to have to be spread around the country. In that case, how do people get around? We’ve already heard that the infrastructure of the country needs to improve, so with the tournament coming here, perhaps that will happen. Car hire will be at a premium, and the cost of that will go up for the month. Continue reading

Day 3 – Strewth…The Aussies have won something

Day 3: Our men in Doha, Dagenham Dan and Brian continue this adventures in Dogha.    Words by Brian and photos from Dan..

The third day of our trip brings us to game three of our jaunt, and a chance to gloat. Today’s match sees Australia take on the might of India. Oh the glamour..

In cricketing terms this would be a match between the first and fifth ranked teams in the world. Of course this doesn’t say much as there aren’t that many test playing nations in the world. But in football, this is the 26th ranked Aussies against the 142nd ranked Indians. If in last night’s game there was a big gap between the rankings of the respective teams, then this is even bigger. This is surely no contest?

Aside from the English based players in the Australian squad, there is also an English connection to the Indian team. They have an English coach in Bob Houghton. He has been there, done that and got the t-shirt as well, coaching for over three decades and in around a dozen countries.

In our hotel, we not only have three of the competing nations staying here, but we also have some of their media as well, including Fox Sports from Australia. Dan has already one encounter with them, when he was asked why we had chosen to come out here, and would we be going to the game? Of course, given recent events in the cricket, he said that we would be there, and that he would be in the only clothing choice that an Englishman could pick; an England cricket shirt.

It can be a hard life reporting for the ball is round. For most of the season so far, we have been making notes during games and watching matches in all sorts of weather, and not all of it pleasant. Today is a case in point; while it’s been raining at home, we’ve had to put up with a slight breeze and a single cloud in the sky. The birds are singing, and the pool bar is not yet in use by anyone, although the life guard is on stand by in case anyone feels like having a swim. Looking around at the moment, there are actually more staff around that guests. Honestly, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Actually having just written this, the number around the pool has just doubled, as the Uzbek head coach and one of his assistants have shown up. Continue reading