Tuesday, July 28, 2009

German Bundesliga Season 2009-2010 Preview - hot favorites

German Bundesliga will open the curtain in 7 August 2009 with the blockbuster game between defending champion VfL Wolfsburg and VfB Stuttgart. Before the season starts, I will preview generally to the league. This part I will preview the favorite championship winner:

Bayern München - forever favorite: No doubt about it, Bayern München is still the favorite of the league. After the tragic season, the team changed the leadership once more. The Dutch coach Louis van Gaal takes over the team and seems he is favoring the new players. Thomas Müller and Holger Badstuber are the examples. At the same time, the arrival of Ukrainian national Anatoliy Tymoshchuk will definitely lead to the defensive line become very solid as he has high rate of stamina and strength. Even though Lucio and Tim Borowksi leave the team, I do not believe it will bring too much harm, especially the case of Lucio, it maybe more beneficial to the team as Lucio is too aggressive and led the team more trouble last season.
What is helping them to win: Player ability. This is what Bayern München has every season. The best players in Germany are all around in the team so they only need to play well and they will win games. The arrival of Mario Gomez is definitely improving the team finishing. So, I believe the team will improve a lot.
What is stopping them: Consistency. This is what the team lack of last season. They can play very well but can also get humiliated in the following week. Actually consistency is what they only need in the Bundesliga as mentioned, they are the best team in Germany.

Werder Bremen - post-Diego era: As predicted, Diego leaves the team for his further development. So the team is basically enter the post-Diego era about 2 months ago. They, also as predicted, purchased Marko Marin from Borussia Mönchengladbach to fill in the vacancy. Together with Mesut Özil, they will be the most important duo in the team. They need to cover each other in order to create more spaces for each other and even the other players. On the other side, Naldo also left the team to France and now Per Mertesacker is the most important defender in the team, and I believe he is the key player to lead the team to success. Furthermore, the team needs to get another prolific striker as Claudio Pizarro had returned to Chelsea. So Hugo Almeida, Aaron Hunt, and the other strikers have to perform well.
What is helping them to win: Attack. This is what they are proud of, and this is the reason why they won the championship. Last season the strikers failed to convert the game plays into goals, even though Claudio Pizarro were in hot form. Now the midfield bascially maintain their ability and the strikers have to convert it into goals.
What is stopping them: Defence. The defence is further degraded after the departure of Naldo. Besides Per Mertesacker, Sebastian Prödl will become more important as he needs to relieve Mertesacker. As the team did not have any significant signings in the defence, it will be all counted on this duo.

VfB Stuttgart - local pride: Last season it can be said that it was the pride of locals as they did so well in the league under the base of local young guns. However, since the departure of Mario Gomez, Stuttgart had lost the focal point of attack. So unlucky at the same time, they failed to seek a successor to replace his position. Klaus-Jan Huntelaar was the hot favorite to join in the team but in the end the deal was undone. As the season is going to start, even they have purchased a new striker, Cacau is still the most important striker in the team as assuming there is a new striker to join in, he needs some time to fit into the team. The midfield and the defense do not change too much as they were solid last season. Thomas Hitzlsperger and Sami Khedira will continue to lead the midfield and Serder Tasci will be more important day by day.
What is helping them to win: Early start. Last season Stuttgart had a very slow start and trailed behind a long distance to the top table team. So even though they had a very great second half of the season, it never got close to win a championship. Therefore, I believe they need a early start in order to get enough points for the tight match schedule.
What is stopping them: Goalkeeping. As the defence is not too experienced to lead the line, goalkeeping is the most important factor. Jens Lehmann is degrading after Euro 2008 and he made some soft mistakes last season. As he is getting older, it is predicted that he will keep making mistakes.

FC Schalke 04 - Try again: Another try for them this season, as they have tried so many years and they got nothing. Felix Magath takes over the coaching job this season in order to meet all the fans' expectation - do what he did in Wolfsburg. Change is not significant in terms of transfer market, so I believe they will still have problem on creativity. Ivan Rakitic is very important player in the team as he is very creative and lead the team to score goals. Kevin Kuranyi and Jefferson Farfan need to prove themselves this season as this was what they failed to do. In the defence, Benedikt Höwedes had an excellent season so this season he will be the first choice center back. He will take over the leading job from Bordon and it will be the deciding factor for Schalke.
What is helping them to win: Defence, defence, defence. From midfield to the center back, Schalke has a lot of solid players to tackle the ball and stop the play. Jermaine Jones is the typical example in the defence midfield. At the same time, they are very strong in the air so not so many teams can score lots of goals to them, which is the deciding factor to their fate.
What is stopping them: Creativity. I cannot believe that they did nothing to improve their pathetic creativity in this transfer market. Obviously Rakitic found a very hard time to create the play by himself and one more attacking midfielder is urgently needed.

This is my prediction of the hot favorites. Next part I will mention about the dark horses.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

2009 State of Origin Review

This year State of Origin has ended with Queensland created a history which was winning the trophy 4 years in a row. It showed that Queensland outplayed New South Wales in all sorts. New South Wales however, had claimed their pride with the victory at Suncorp Stadium to avoid the whitewash. Now here's some of my sharing in this State of Origin Series:

Harder, stronger, harder

It always be. It is all about State of Origin, and this is why this is one of the most fierce rivalry in the world. All of the best players in the league are all in this high stage of the game. So it is still not enough to play hard, strong, and good. Instead, they have to be harder, stronger, and better in order to become the hardest, the strongest, and the best. Queensland backline did so well in this Origin series to lead them to achieve history. At the same time, New South Wales forward line kept tiring the opposition so they had so many chances to score, even though they failed to convert.

80 minutes good football

There is not any space to have a break, as when a team slow down a little, they will get caught. Queensland nearly get caught in the final 20 minutes in Game 1 and Game 2 respectively, but New South Wales poor finishing and the cheap errors gave Queensland a chance to win the game. On the other hand, New South Wales always got caught in the first 20 minutes and led them to chase the game in most of the game. This was a huge pressure for New South Wales in the first 2 games in the Series as Queensland were protecting the lead very well. New South Wales had done it in Game 3, as they did not give any chance for Queensland to bounce back and led them to have a great win. So a winning team should play well in all 80 minutes.

Early lead, final say

It was very obvious in all these 3 games. Queensland made and extended the lead in the first 25 minutes in Game 1 and Game 2 so that they could hold on and win the game. Especially in Game 2, Queensland had 3 tries in a short period of time and led New South Wales hard to bounce back to the game, even it was very close. Close but not enough, this is what final say means. Queensland always had a final say in the dying minutes. In Game 1, Kurt Gidley made an important knock on error and handed the game to Queensland. Then in Game 2, New South Wales failed to finish the play in the final minutes and led Queensland had a chance to take a breathe and then scored a try to seal the Series. If Queensland failed to extend the lead in first 25 minutes like Game 3, New South Wales actually had the upper hand to win the game, or even took back the Series.

Creativity, skills, and pace

This is how both teams had tries. Forward rushing is not so useful in this year State of Origin. Instead, more skills, pace, and creativity are needed to score. Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Michael Jennings, and Jarryd Hayne are the good examples from Queensland and New South Wales. Their footwork and pace were really threatening to the opposition and created lots of line breaks in these 3 games. Jonathan Thurston and Trent Barrett were the focus on the creative plays. All the creative plays from each side were come from them. Their vision and skills did help the team to create a hole for the other teammates to go through and break the line. I believe more of these are needed in the upcoming Origin.

Now here is some forecast from each side:

What's next Queensland: Seems Darren Lockyer is fading out his role in representative football. Rumours said Brisbane Broncos wanted him to step down the representative football in order to offer him a 2-year contract. Even Lockyer said he did not concern about this so far, I believe he may step down as he fitness started not to supporting this tight schedule. So who will be new five-eigth? It is what Mal Meninga needs to think about. On the other hand, in Game 3 it showed the bench power of the side was not good enough, as Michael Crocker failed to impress at all, and the absence of Petero Civoniceva did affect the forward line. I believe Queensland needs to find a better forward players if they want to defend their title and continue the great history.

What's next New South Wales: Change, lots of changes. It seems players are all outplayed in the first 2 games in the Series. The halves combination was so unstable and every combination seems not the best to cope with Queensland strong halves. Peter Wallace and Terry Campese are the future but they are not experienced enough. Jamie Soward on the other hand is a good choice, but the problem is same with the previous. There will be lots of changes in the squad but I believe Jarryd Hayne will be the centre of the change. He did better and better since his debut in 2006 and he is now the most important player in New South Wales. So who and how can he be helped? This is one of the biggest question next year.

State of Origin is always the best rugby league rivalry in the world. The players gave more than they had in order to acheive the best. So this is why there are so many people in Australia love this game. Will New South Wales re-claim the title? Or Queensland will create the better record, which is 5 title winnings in a row? We will find out next year.

Monday, July 13, 2009

State of Origin III Preview

Queensland had achieved history as predicted after they beated New South Wales in Game 2. Now the focus in Suncorp Stadium in Game 3 is if Queensland can further humiliate New South Wales to achieve the clean sweep record. Changes are found in both sides, so there will be a different combination and hopefully there will be another surprise. Now here's my preview:

Queensland: No doubt, they were too good for New South Wales. The combination of Cameron Smith, Jonathan Thurston, and Darren Lockyer were still threatening to New South Wales. On the other hand, Greg Inglis was the man who can finish the play well and gave Nre South Wales no chance to bounce back. Even though they may not have so much mentality in this game as they have secured the Origin shield, Suncorp is Suncorp, they will have a home court advantage which New South Wales must handle. Changes had been made as there were injuries including Israel Folau, Ben Hannant, and Petero Civoniceva. The forward may have some problems as the two men are very important for the forward protection to the backs.
What Queensland needs to improve: Again, fitness. Queensland were walking in the final 20 minutes of the Game 2 and New South Wales were so close to score to equalize or even win the game. Michael Crocker was struggling most in terms of fitness as he could barely hold the football tight and kept making mistakes. Sam Thaiday must stand up this time as his fitness is one of the best among the team.

New South Wales: Compared to Game 2, they had 11 changes ahead to Game 3. Even though there was various reasons to explain why there were so many changes, I believe coach Craig Bellamy and the selectors were very upset to their performance. Trent Barrett was the most threatening player in Game 2 and I believe he can keep bringing threats to Queensland this Wednesday. His experience and game reading can make the others play comfortably. The halfback is changed to Brett Kimmorley, compare with Peter Wallace in first two games. I believe this duo can bring a lot of combination and experience to the team so that players like Kurt Gidley and Jarryd Hayne will play better this time.
What New South Wales needs to improve: Finishing. As Queensland was walking in final 20 minutes in Game 2, they failed to score 1 more try to win the game. This was because they failed to finish the play, especially in Tackle 5 situation. Good kicking plays were rarely to see in Game 2 as they could not finish the game play well. They must improve this finishing or else Queensland will have a final say again.

My prediction: This is all about in Queensland's hand. If Queensland is chasing the clean sweep, New South Wales is very hard to stop them. As Queensland had already claimed the series, I believe New South Wales can have a slight advantage over Queensland. Also, Brett Kimmorley, Trent Barrett, and Kurt Gidley can bring lots of threats to Queensland if they combine well. So even Queensland is playing in Suncorp Stadium, I believe New South Wales this time can take some pride back home.
My tip: New South Wales by 1 try