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Sunday, June 21, 2009

State of Origin 2009 Game II Preview

This Wednesday State of Origin will be played Game 2. New South Wales have no room to lose if they want to avoid Queensland to create history, which is 4 title winning in a row since the introduction of 3 game series. Queensland on the other side, however, would like to seal the title victory in Sydney. Now here's the preview:

New South Wales: The injury hit the Blues so hard as they had 7 changes compare to Game 1. Terry Campese was so disappointed in Game 1 so the Blues recuited veteran Trent Barrett to be the starting five-eigth. His experience absolutely helps the inexperienced Blues to assist Queensland. Robbie Farah will be very important as well because his kicks in play did threaten Queensland. Craig Wing on the other hand will continue to be the "super sub" as he brought a lot of threats once he was brought on. I believe even though the injury hits the Blues, this maybe a good news for them as this is a great chance to recall the veterans to play this important Game 2.
What they need to improve: Concentration. The Blues were not concentrated at all 80 minutes of the game led them lost Game 1. Four of the five tries from Queensland were come from Blues' lack of concentration. After Jarryd Hayne's try was denied, the team lost the concentration and conceded 3 tries in a short period. Also, in the end of Game 1, Kurt Gidley also lost the concentration and knocked the ball on and in the end, the Queensland sealed the win. So they must improve the concentration or they will let Queensland create history.

Queensland: If you ain't break it, why fix it? This can best describe the Maroons in Game 2 preparation. Willie Tonga is the only change as Justin Hodges is injured. The national backline in Game 1 were too fast and too big for the Blues so I believe they will keep the same tactics in this game. Cameron Smith, Jonathan Thurston, and Darren Lockyer will be the important combination of the game play. Together with Greg Inglis, Israel Folau, and Billy Slater, the Australia national backline will continue to threaten the Blues so much. As the Blues provide them just a little space and little time, the backline will bring them the maximum impact.
What they need to improve: Fitness. The Maroons were out of gas after the 60 minute mark so they provided a chance for the Blues to bounce back. It was lucky for them as they led the Blues in the early of the game so there were rooms for the Maroons to concede points and tries. Also, it was also lucky that Kurt Gidley made a schoolboy error and led the Maroons seal the game. Steve Price and Petero Civoniceva must have to keep their fitness well as they are the leader of the forward line, who they are protecting the backs. So I believe the key to create history is the forward fitness.

Key of the game: Still, it is very close call for me. The game is still not over even if anyone can score a try first. I believe the winning side is determined who can extend the lead. New South Wales even has a clear home court advantage, but Queensland started to adept and more even, to win against them in Sydney. In other words, Queensland is capable to win in away court. I believe Queensland can effectively convert the New South Wales error into tries and points and then extend the lead, just like Game 1. So, I believe Queensland can create history.
My tipping: Queensland win by 1 try

Sunday, June 14, 2009

German Bundesliga My Best 11 Season 2008-2009

As the season had ended for a while, I am now share my personal best 11 and 7 substitutes. Just a reminder that any tactical combination is not considered in my best 11:

Starting 11

Goalkeeper - Robert Enke (Hannover 96): Even Hannover was underachieving this season, his performance had been praised. He made lots of crucial saves in order to keep the team in contention during the match. At the same time, he had suffered the injury for 3 months in the end of 2008. He made a strong comeback after the injury however, led the team to improve their performance and it ended up in 11th position, far away from relegation. So his leadership and the skills could make him to be my starting goalkeeper.

Right defender - Christian Träsch (VfB Stuttgart): He is one of the best right backs this season. He was a center midfield before but no one thought he was so good in the right back as well. Especially in the second half of the season, he played an essential role to Stuttgart for the great comeback in the second half of the season. Also, his attacking runs were very effective that relieved lots of pressure of the midfield and the strikers. So he is in my list.

Left defender - Philipp Lahm (Bayern München): As Bayern had a tragic season, Lahm could still keep his good form in the team. When everybody criticized the fragile defense of Bayern, he was one of the only few persons who was praised. He could tackle the ball just in time as well as made a lot of attacking runs in the left flank. So he helped a lot to Franck Ribery and he actually scored goals from the left side. So even though Bayern did not perform well at all this season, he is in my list as well.

Central defender - Neven Subotic (Borussia Dortmund): He was the surprise of the Bundesliga this season. Not so many critics expected him to be one of the best defenders in Bundesliga in his debut season to Dortmund from Mainz. His positioning and tackling were very good that to lead Dortmund had a solid defense line. Furthermore, his heading was very useful in the dead ball situation as he scored goals from that. He scored 6 goals this season, this was a very good statstics for a defender. So he is definitely in my list.

Central defender - Heiko Westermann (Schalke 04): He was the only good player in Schalke 04 this season. Even Schalke was only lying on 8th position, they had a very good record, that was the lowest goals conceded. Westermann should take this credit as his tackling and pace were very good that to cover the defense line well. More importantly, he could play lots of positions, such as left and right back, or even defensive midfielder and attacking midfielder. He was even the top goalscorer in the beginning of the season. So why was not on my list?

Defensive midfielder - Thomas Hitzlsperger (VfB Stuttgart): Hitzlsperger was the important factor that led to the team to bounce back to second runner-up. He was not only good at long shot, what he impressed me this season was his ability to hold on the ball. As a team captain, Hitzlsperger could lead the midfield and control the flow of the attack effectively. Also, he could tackle the counter attacks from the opposition well in order to continue the attack. He was the hero behind the team so he should be in my list.

Attacking midfielder - Franck Ribery (Bayern München): Again, he was the spotlight of the Bayern midfield. He ran with the ball so many time and again he brought a lot of threats to the opposition. Even critics said Bayern had relied on Ribery too much but Ribery took his job so well even though the opposition tried to get rid of his threat. The only concern was if the other players could relieve him, of course this season was not the case. So his individual efforts made me to put him into the list.

Attacking midfielder - Zvjezdan Misimovic (VfL Wolfsburg): What a debut season in Wolfsburg! He made 20 assists, which was on top of the assist list said the reason for putting him into the dream team list. He could play the best form of the season all time so that he could made those 20 assists and led the team to score most goals among Bundesliga. Apart from the excellent assists, his ability to read through the game led the teammates were comfortable to play, so this was why Grafite and Eden Dzeko was so comfortable to score so many goal. So I cannot see why I do not put him into the list.

Striker - Grafite (VfL Wolfsburg): Top goalscorer of the season. He scored 28 goals this season was one of the highest record in recent Bundesliga season. His finishing ability was so good that he barely missed any easy shots in front of the goal net. Also, he could assist well, which had 11 assists so his partner, Eden Dzeko could be the second top goalscorer this season. His great performance no doubt to become anybody's best 11. Of course, my best 11 is included.

Striker - Mario Gomez (VfB Stuutgart): His first half of the season was very ordinary. However his performance in the latter half of the season was astonishing. He scored 17 goals in 2009 led Stuttgart bounced back to second runner-up. His great comeback and improvement made Bayern offered a 30 million Euro to get him into the team. This move proved and recognized his effort this season. Also, Bayern does believe in him to lead the team to get the title back. So, he must be in my list.

Striker - Eden Dzeko (VfL Wolfsburg): When fans and critics praised how good Grafite was, Eden Dzeko was not be forgotten. He scored 26 goals this season said he was definitely in the best 11 list. Same as Grafite, he could also assist which he had 10 assists this season. Together with the combination with Gafite, both of them played and combined so well that the opposition were very hard to stop their attack, as there were 2 main attacking points. So, it will be meaningless if putting only one of them into the list.

Substitutes

Rene Adler (Goalkeeper, Bayer Leverkusen): He was one of the best goalkeepers this season, especially in front of him were the inexperienced, slow paced, and fragile defense line. His fast reflection led him to make lots of saves every game to lead Leverkusen to win the game. Unfortunately he and the team could not hold on and finally dropped to 9th position and lost in DFB Pokal Final, which meant he failed to attend the European compeition next season.

Benedikt Höwedes (Central defender, Schalke 04): Young, talented, and mature could describe his performance this season in Schalke. He did not have the chance to perform in the beginning of the season but he took his chance well to step up to the important role in the team when Bordon ws injured. His positioning was the best of his skills and led the team to have a safe and solid defense line, even better than Bordon's lead. So he is in my list.

Mesut Özil (Left winger, Werder Bremen): Speaking to assists, he was the second highest number assist this season, which had 15 assists. Even though the main reason was he had chance to perform himself as Diego was rested for the more important matches in the end of season, he had a constent performance all over the season in fact. The example was the 5-2 thrashing against Bayern München, which his performance was best of his career. Actually he was the hero behind Diego and he will be the hero if he can take the team to the top next season.

Marko Marin (Attacking midfielder, Borussia Mönchengladbach): In the hard season for Gladbach, Marin was the player who must be thanked as he was the important player who got the team out od relegaion trouble. Marin created so many threats from the midfield and made lots of runs in order to get the team score. His 13 assists in this season was so important that they could get away from relegation. So Marin is the player I must put him into the lst.

Carlos Eduardo (Attacking midfielder, 1899 Hoffenheim): The most expensive player in Hoffenheim this season. He created lots of plays to the attacking players such as Vedad Ibisevic and Demba Ba and led the team to be the winter champion as the debutant of the Bundesliga. Even though his form slipped very quickly and led the team slip, I still believe he is one of the best players this season.

Claudio Pizarro (Striker, Werder Bremen): Werder Bremen made he right choice for loaning him from Chelsea, where Pizarro never had a chance to play. He got back his best form when he was in Werder Bremen for the first time and scored 17 goals this season. His solid and consistent performance led Werder Bremen to be at 10th position and prevent the team to drop further. Sadly he will return to Chelsea next season but his performance convince me to put him in the list.

Vedad Ibisevic (Striker, 1899 Hoffenheim): I believe there are some people had forgotten how good he was. He scored 18 goals in the first half of the season, better than any strikers mentioned in my starting 11 at the same moment. However, he was so unlucky that he hurt himself and was forced to be out of the remaining of this season. He is back next season and see if he can keep on.

Coach

Markus Babbel (VfB Stuttgart): I believe many of people will choose Felix Magath as the best coach of this season. However, thinking of inexperience and even he did not have coaching license, Babbel did a miraculous job to lead the team to the second runner-up position. He did a lot of work to foster the team morale in order to make the team different. So my vote goes to Babbel.

Friday, June 12, 2009

German Bundesliga Season 2008-2009 Team by Team Review (Part III)

Previously I had reviewed the 2008-2009 season from 1st to 12th. This paer I will review the remaining teams in te bottom of the table:

13th place - Eintract Frankfurt: Ordinary can describe it all. The team did not perform well in the attacking line. Martin Fenin had a drastic season overall, he was an invisible man in the team. The other strikers could not perform well as well, only Ioannis Amanitidis had some good performance before his injury, no wonder they only scored 39 goals this season. Furthermore, the defense of the team did not do very well, as they had lost 60 goals this season. However, the home ground performance was good enough for them to get away from relegation, they had won 5 times and drawn 4 times out of 17 games. So home performance was the key of avoiding the further drop.

14th place - VfL Bochum: Same as Eintract Frankfurt, they had the problem of the attacks. Stanislav Sestak was the most important player in the team and he was the best striker in the team in fact. Diego Klimowicz even though joined the team in the winter, his effect was very limited as he did not fit in the team well. The reason why they stayed away from the relegation zone was the defense. They had the second best defense within the bottom six, which they lost 55 goals. And, they had 11 draws of the season that led them to successfully avoid the relegation in the last 2 weeks of the season.

15th place - Borussia Mönchengladbach: Previously I had tipped Gladbach would be the first team to be relegated, in fact I was wrong. Their gamble paid off in the midseason cleanup. Tomas Galasek performed very well to protect the midfield and relieved lots of pressure to the defense line. New goalkeeper Logan Bailly did a consistent job in order to try hard to stop goals, even they had lost 62 goals still. Alexander Baumjohann and Marko Marin did so well that the attack was improved a lot after the winter break. This was a great escape for them this season and they should have learn this lesson which nearly costed them a Bundesliga seat.

16th place - Energie Cottbus: Under the new league system, they had another chance to play against the third team in second division, which was 1. FC Nürnburg. However, their poor attacking led them to be beaten by 5-0 in aggregate. Lack of attacking options and the creativity led them to relegate this season. There was no one to create the attack consistently. All the hope was relying on Dimitar Rangelov. As he was injured, the whole team lost the attacking plays. Jiayi Shao should have done better, but the management did not trust him at all, so even Shao tried so hard, he only had very limited chances to play and he could not help the team which such a little playing time. I do not believe they can bounce back immediately as the other teams from second division are very competent.

17th place - Karlsruher SC: After 2 seasons in Bundesliga, the team went back to the place the belonged to. The team did not have any miracle at all, as their attack was very poor. They had recorded to be scoreless for more than 700 minutes showed that they did not know how to attack without Tamas Hajnal, who had transferred to Borussia Dortmund last summer. Josh Kennedy did not do well at all, as he was supposed to be the top striker in the team. Sebastian Freis was the only attacker did well in the team that was lacking of supplies. He did what he could but sadly it was not enough for helping the team to get out of trouble. Same as Cottbus, I do not believe they can bounce back right after the relegation.

18th place - Arminia Bielefeld: They were under the raider - for being the relegation team. They had the worst attacks in the Bundesliga, even worse that Karlsruher, scored 29 goals out of 34 games. Artur Wichniarek was the only player who could score goals but his cold streak in the last 2 months of the season directly led the team to relegate. The other players such as Vlad Munteanu should have done more and better as he was supposed to be the provider of scoring. Even they only lost 56 goals in the league, this was not good enough to cover the poor attacking. So this was the reason why they went down.

Now this is all of the review! Next time I will review the German teams in European competition.

Monday, June 8, 2009

German Bundesliga Season 2008-2009 Team by Team Review (Part II)

Previously I have reviewed the first 6 team in the Bundesliga Season 2008-2009. This part I will review the next 6 teams of the league.

7th place - 1899 Hoffenheim: There was a high hope for Hoffenheim in the first half of the season after the astonishing performance. However, the absence of Vedid Ibisevic seemed the sign of the mid-season slump. The absence of Ibisevic led the team did not have any scoring point and led the team failed the score effectively. On the other hand, the thin bench led them failed to relieve Ibisevic and the other players such as Demba Ba, and Carlos Eduardo. The inconsistent of goalkeeper also the factor as well. Timo Hildebrand could not solve the problem effectively as he had the trouble of injuries. So this could explain that why they failed to win for 12 games in a row. I believe more bench players is needed in order to keep the good performance next season.

8th place - FC Schalke 04: Schalke did very bad in this season. There was a big hope for them as Jefferson Farfan and the others joined the team in order to increase the scoring ability. However, they performed as not good as expected. Farfan had trouble in fitting in the team and he rarely scored. Kevin Kuranyi at the same time also had a rough season. Since the expel from the national team, his performance was slumping. After Ivan Ratikic took over the attacking midfielder again, he led the attacking line back to work. However, this was too late as they lost too many points. I believe, however, they can perform far better as Felix Magath takes over the team.

9th place - Bayer Leverkusen: Mid-season slump said it all. They had a young, talented, energetic, but inexperienced team. The defense was very good for them as Rene Adler performed very well all around the season. However, the strikers and the defenders always failed to perform well in the crucial moment. Tranquillo Barnetta and Patrick Helmes are the examples. Barnetta failed to perform as good as the first half of the season, fewer assists, fewer runs led him to lose the starting place. Patrick Helmes also failed to score the goals consistently and this was fatal. Stefan Kießling at the same time failed to relieve him so this was why Leverkusen kept slumping. As Sami Hyypia had confirmed to join them, I believe his experience can help the team very much in next season.

10th place - Werder Bremen: Apart from the league, they had a wonderful season as they reached UEFA Cup Final and won the DFB Pokal. However, the league performance was definitely underachieving. The best play was the away 5-2 victory against Bayern München, but, there was nothing more. The defense was too relying on Per Mertesacker, as Mertesacker was unavailable, the entired defense line lost the leadership. Diego and Mesut Özil were the most important players in the attacks. Since they were unavailable to play, the strikers could not relieve their scoring tasks. Diego is confirmed to transfer to Juventus, I believe Özil will take the essential role next season.

11th place - Hannover 96: Home court advantage said it all. They only lost 2 games out of the 17 home games led them to get out of trouble from the relegation. However, their performance of the away game was totally opposite, they only won 2 games out of 17, which was last of the league. Robert Enke played an important role of the team as he stopped lots of crucial shots all around the season that led the team to be safe in the mid-table, as well as proving himself to be the first choice national team goalkeeper. I believe the team must improve the away performance as well as purchasing more attacking players.

12th place - 1. FC Köln: The team was very solid, but only in defense. The attacking did not doing well at all as Milivoje Novakovic was the only striker who guaranteed to score goals. As he reached to the cold streak in the last 2 months of the season, there was no player who could stand up and took his job. At the same time, there were a lots of fast paced defensive midfielders to tackle and regain the possession effectively, but there was no creative attacking midfielders. So this can be explained why the team could not go further. Lukas Podolski will join them next season and see how helpful does he in terms of midfield creation.

That's it the second part. I will review the remaining teams shortly.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

German Bundesliga Season 2008-2009 Team by Team Review (Part I)

German Bundesliga had ended the season 2008-2009 with surprise. Now it is 2 weeks after the season, it is a good time to review it team by team. In this part I will review the teams from 1st to 6th:

Champion - VfL Wolfsburg: I believe there was not so many people to tip them to be the champion. The main reason to win the title was the excellent home performance. They recorded 16 wins and 1 draw in their 17 homes games, which including a 5-1 astonishing victory against Bayern München. The other important reason was the improvement of the away game record after the winter break. Comapre with 1st half of the season, they played far better when they were away from home, which including the 5-0 victory against Hannover 96. Eden Dzeko, Grafite, and Zvejezdan Misimovic played an important role to lead the team to reach their first ever title. So I believe these factors were so important to lead them to win.

Runner-up - Bayern München: Bayern München again, they had a title-less season. It was drastic for them as they did not even reach to the top of the table once. Jürgen Klinsmann failed to bring the team consistency so I can say this season was like a rollercoaster ride for them. Careless loss was the biggest problem for them, especially at home, which they conceded 23 goals in 17 games. This poor record led them to erase all the good efforts in the away game form, which was the best in the league. The team still relied on Franck Ribery too much, as when he was absent, the whole team could not create. Luca Toni was the worst player in the team, even he was top goalscorer in the team but he missed a lot of chances and slowed down all the plays. Another big change is urgently needed in order to regain all the pride next season.

3rd place - VfB Stuttgart: Stuttgart was the comeback kid of this season. There was not any clue to bounce back like this before the winter break. Coach Markus Babbel took the credit for sure. He brought the team spirit and determination in order to do the nearly impossible job. Their excellent performance after the winter break ever led them to challenge the title. The other reason was Mario Gomez. The future Bayern München striker had improved a lot, which he scored 17 goals after the winter break. Compare with 7 goals before the winter break, it was very obvious to see his revival led Stuttgart improve and challenge the title. Now they have extra 30 million Euro for the departure of Gomez, I believe they will improve very well next season.

4th place - Hertha Berlin: Hertha Berlin was one of the teams who could challenge the title. However, they could not hold on in the end and led them even fail to reach next season's Champions League. The main reason was the inconsistence performance of Andrei Voronin. Hertha Berlin reached the best form when Voronin reached his best. However, when Voronin reached the cold streak, the team lost the scoring point and reached the cold streak. Marko Pantelic was unable to relieve the pressure from Voronin even he took the starting place in the end of season. The defense was very solid so they always held on and took the win with small margin or held out for a draw. As Voronin was likey to return to Liverpool, Hertha Berlin must find another good striker in next season.

5th place - Hamburger SV: "Northern Derby" was the phrase that they never forget. "Werder Bremen" was the team they hated most. The 4-game series of "Northern Derby" did kill all of their title hope. Before the derby Hamburger did very well and they were one of the teams who could win the treble (League, DFB Pokal, and UEFA Cup). However, they only failed to beat one team, that was Werder Bremen. The main reason was player fatigue. Piotr Trochowski, Jose Paolo Guerrero, and Mlaten Petric were stroke by the fatigue and their form slipped fast. Only Ivica Olic could maintain his best form but the others were too tired to relieve him. I believe they need to recruit more players in the next season in order to deal with the tight match schedule.

6th place - Borussia Dortmund: They also were one of the surprises this season. They had a young coach with a young team to lead them to reach a good performance and result. Neven Subotic did very well in the back together with Mats Hummels. Nelson Valdez started to improve and matched the style with Alexander Frei. However, they had too many draw games, which were 14 games of the season and was the second highest draw games. It showed that they failed to finish the game when they were leading. The inexperience led them to have this problem as they young guns could not hold their grip in the crucial moment. I believe they need to input more experienced players in order to stablize the team.

So this is the first part of the review. The second and third part will be coming soon!

Monday, June 1, 2009

State of Origin 2009 Game I Preview

Australia's most furious rivals - State of Origin will start the Game I in Wednesday (3 June) at Melbourne. New South Wales had 8 debutants as they wants to bring some new breath to win their first Series in 3 years. On the other hand, Queensland bring the original strongest squad in order to win the Series 4 years in a row. Now here's the tipping:

Queensland: Queensland did not change a lot compare to the squad last season. Only Darren Lockyer is back into the Origin to replace Scott Prince. The halves combination is still very strong and the creativeness of Jonathan Thurston and Darren Lockyer will be the key of the game. Israel Folau will bring lots of threats on the right wing as his jumping and pace is one of the best in NRL. The most important player is Thurston still as he will be the second receiver of the attack and he will have more space to make passes and kicks.
Key winning point - halves combination: As I mentioned, the halves are the centre point of the Queensland attack. Thurston and Lockyer are the starting point of the attack so New South Wales must stop them. Along with hooker Cameron Smith, the 9, 7, 6 combination is really good and creative. If this combination is effective, Queensland can win this game easily.

New South Wales: Compare with Queensland, coach Craig Bellamy had recruited 8 new debutants to enter the team. The most expecting debutants will be Robbie Farah and Terry Campese. This year New South Wales also have the best backs in last 3 years as they were all outplayed by the Queensland backs, especially in the halves position. Even though Terry Campese will play an important role in this game, I still believe Peter Wallace is the most important player in the game, as he knows the way Brisbane Broncos play, which is very similar to Queensland playing style. Wallace is very good at making use the space to create attack so if there is any space left for him, he can create lots of threats.
Key winning point - forward offloading: Still, offloading is the key point of New South Wales. For a long time New South Wales have a clear advantage of the forwards as they are strong, fast, and hard to catch. They also are very good at offloading so Queensland kept chasing. So if New South Wales can play the offload, Queensland will be tired very quickly and New South Wales can score tries easily.

Tipping: I believe the match will be very very close. Actually the advantage of both sides are fading as Queensland's forwards are better and New South Wales' halves and backs are the best in the last 3 years. Playing at Melbourne is a little bit advantage to Queensland as they won the decider in 2006 there. I believe the match experience can bring Queensland through as this is one of the most important factors of the game. However, the margin will be very narrow.
My tip: Queensland win by 1 try

So happy Origin!