Saturday, 12 January 2013

Algeria friendly, Bafana strikers time to shine

Bafana Bafana have shown glimpses of promise under Gordon Igesund , but have yet to hit the form that is required to genuinely consider themselves as a 2013 Afcon contender. Bafana’s quality has yet to come through with most of the blame being shifted towards the front men.  
Bafana Bafana’s strikers remain the national team’s scape goats going into the teams international friendly clash against Algeria tonight.  Massive pressure has been placed on the shoulders of the likes of Katlego Mphela and Bernard Parker who have yet to come alive in front of goal for the green and gold under Igesund. Igesund has defended his strikers furiously through the course of the week and has filled his quota, it’s now the strikers turn to fill theirs.
The Algerian side are ranked 19th in the world and will be more than worthy opponents, but Bafana might find some fortune in the fact that Algeria’s defence is not their strong suit. The fennec foxes back four average an age below thirty and is very inexperienced as a unit, Bafana’s Thuso Phala will also be able to exploit the wide areas of the pitch considering Algeria’s leftback  Djamal Mesbah struggles to perform against faster opponents.
Bearing the inexperience of the Algerian backs in mind, one can only think that chances will come more often, and that is exactly what Bafana Bafana need. Tuesday nights clash showcased exactly how much the South Africans struggle in front of goal with numerous chances squandered; our strikers were left red-faced as effort after effort went astray.  Mphela is set to make his 50th appearance for Bafana come kick off. The Sundowns striker faces stiff competition and will be more than determined to cement a starting place in a squad that is full of attacking power. Mphela was lacklustre on Tuesday night and looked like a striker without confidence and one feels that if he starts tonight and fails to impress he will have to make himself comfortable on the bench come the start of 2013 Afcon.
 Bernad Parker and Kaizer Chiefs teammate Lehlohonolo Majoro currently lead the PSL scoring charts and both will be raring to get on the score sheet tonight. Parker has been in superb form scoring 9 goals in 16 games for Chiefs this season with Majoro chipping in with a healthy tally of 8 goals. Mphela looks to be the main man under Igesund  as was the case with Mosimane and Parreira. He certainly has all the qualities and he has shown us what he can do in front of goal. But with the Kaizer Chief duo and Tokelo Rantie breathing down his neck. Mphela will bring up his half century tonight knowing that he will have to perform to not only keep himself in the starting 11 but also keep the faithful fans of his back. 
Bafana clearly have all the attacking potential and all the guns in the arsenal to fire their way to Afcon glory. The road to victory starts tonight with the ball in the striker’s court, it will be interesting to see if they can finally find the net.

Capetonians outraged by 2013 Afcon exclusion

Cape Town Stadium, more commonly known as Greenpoint Stadium recently hosted an international friendly between South Africa and Norway. Last year it was announced that the stadium wouldn’t host any 2013 African Cup of Nations games, so it was the Capetonians last chance to flock to the stadium to watch Bafana Bafana in action before the continental showpiece kicks off in Johannesburg on the 19th of January.
Walking into Cape Town Stadium on Tuesday night to watch Bafana take on Norway one couldn’t help but feel that only a few would pitch to watch a third string Norway side battle Bafana Bafana. Only a few fans were scattered around the stadium an hour before kickoff and under attendance that has been such a problem across the country seemed imminent come kick off.
By kick-off, when both teams lined up for their respective national anthems, over 35 000 people had gathered to watch the game, despite the recent problem of under attendance faced by South African football it was a welcome sight for football enthusiasts across South Africa, with the biggest smile reserved for Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula. World Cup fever returned to the Mother City as fans sang along to their favourite 2010 World Cup songs in what was a festive atmosphere. The Fans were vocal throughout the game, especially extravagant whenever Bafana neared the opposition’s penalty area. The fans sprit was slightly dampened by Norway’s goal in the 41st minute but they were still extremely vocal as they cheered on their beloved Bafana Bafana. The atmosphere was especially special because of the beauty of the stadium and the way the stadium enhances audio through its magnificent architecture. Cape Town Stadium is nestled between Table Mountain and the world-renowned Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. The stadium forms part of its beautiful surroundings that is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
Capetonian Bafana fans are clearly passionate about their team, their eagerness to watch their team succeeded was clearly visible throughout the Norway match. With the signature chants and hand signals making its way through the crowd on a regular basis. One couldn’t help but feel proud to be a South African while sitting inside the iconic stadium, and its sad that the Capetonias who are such wonderful ambassadors for our country are excluded from the continental tournament.
 Besides hosting a number of 2010 FIFA World Cup Games, including the semi-final between eventually runners-up Netherlands and Uruguay, the stadium has also hosted concerts.
The absence of 2013 Afcon games in Cape Town is an underserved blow for a huge community. Cape Town has continuously produced good crowds, making it likely that an 2013 Afcon game held there would have been well-attended. Through the course of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, Cape Town Stadium had an average attendance of over 60 000 spectators. Cape Town has a huge football community, but the national side has only played there five times in the past 19 years.
According to Mbalula, Cape Town was not awarded any Afcon games because the organisers wanted the venues to be close to each other.
It didn’t take long for fans to voice their frustration at this exclusion. They criticized the South African Football Association for using the friendly against Norway as a sort of cover-up.
According to Major Pezisa, “[SAFA] are blinding us with this game (Bafana v Norway) and making us think we have enough for now.”
Ingrid Daniels said that “the Western Cape is part of South Africa, [and] Cape Town has a big soccer-supporting community, so why are we being ignored?”. Siyabonga Gwexe echoed her frustration. “It is unfair towards Capetonians. Clearly we love soccer and support Bafana, so why don’t we get any games?”.
Other fans emphasised that Bafana Bafana would still need Capetonian support to stand a chance of winning the Afcon trophy for the second time. “Of course it’s sad that we won’t have any Afcon games here in Cape Town, but it’s more important that people go to the stadiums and support Bafana,” Vincent Carolissen said. John Linden agreed: “It is unfair to us as Capetonians, but there is nothing we can do about it. Let’s just hope Bafana fans from other part of the country will flock to the stadiums.”  Linden added: “This is a beautiful stadium, the fact that it is being underused is unfair.”
One fan was especially vocal and outraged by Cape Town’s exclusion: “Look at all the supporters gathered here tonight, we feel betrayed, it is sad that we don’t have any 2013 Afcon games,” Chris van Zyl said.
Cape Town has proven that it has a more than worthy football supporting community, the effects of excluding the Western Cape from 2013 Afcon might be felt after the tournament has concluded.
As the fans finally left the stadium clearly saddened by their teams performance one can feel that a big part of the sadness was the fact that they will be limited to their TV screens come 19 January.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Arsenal - the last straw

Thanks to Arsenals performance tonight I will be angered for the rest of the week if I see the highlights of the game.
An inspiring performance by Wengers men, a far better second half performance than what we have become use to over the past weeks. We certainly deserved a point for the second half, with all the chances we created up front.  It was yet again the same old mistakes that cost us a point or even a possible three.
The teams performance was better, I was especially impressed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and  Tomáš Rosicky.  OX’s pace and darting runs around the outside troubling Evra and Rafeal was practically impressive and the assist for the RVP goal highlighted a great game for the young lad. He is definitely one for the future, with great pace he reminds one of Walcott, but with a great first touch and a powerfull shot with time I believe he will be better than Walcott. He was defnitily the shining beacon In Arsenals loss against bitter rivals Man United.
Rosicky played his best game of the season tonight, with an impressive display in the middle. He looked composed and  controlled in the middle of the pitch. Tonights performance was the kind of pefromance we expect from the Czech Republic international.
Defensive woes: Koscielny has improved in every game, I must admit I gave him some stick when he moved to Arsenal but he has settled in nicely, and with Mertesackers improved performance and inspirational Vermaelen back, one feels that with time our defence will improve and maybe one day with a few extra signings reach the heights of The Invincible defence. But despite all the positive signs it is still this department paired with a few terrible misses in front of goal that cost us the game.
Controversial decision:  Wengers decision to replace OX with Arshavin was undoubtedly the mistake of the match, and probably cost us the game with Arshavin having a huge hand in the late winner from Danny Welbeck in the 81st minute. One should never take off your best player in a huge match that can be the difference between European football at the top level and not. Other controversial issues that surround the match were Songs foul on Rooney that earned him a booking. Lots of people saying he should have been sent off as well as Rosicky for his challenge on Rooney that earned him a yellow. In my view you must be absolutely mad to give a straight red for those challenges. The English league is not for sissies and if you enjoy watching sissies and seeing red cards for “hard” tackles go and watch the La Liga or just don’t watch at all. Refs have been criticised for giving harsh red cards, but I was happy to see that the ref, Mike Dean didn’t fall into that deep dark hole.
I still believe that Arsenal can secure a top 4 finish but our senior members will really have to step up. The likes of RVP, Wallcott, Mertensacker, Vermaelen really need to step up to another level if Arsenal stand any chance of finishing in the top  4. If Ramsey can improve and Wilshere and Gervinho return we can certainly still pose a threat. With OX, Song and Rosicky seemingly in good form Arsenal can still push all the way in The League and The Champions League. I just hope our past 3 games against Fulham, Swansea and Man U respectively don’t cost us a top 4 finish and all the glamour and money that goes with the Champions League. We really should of earned at least 7 points from those three games, but due to slack defence by especially Djourou and Mertesacker and some poor football from Wallcott and Ramsey in the middle and upfront we have thrown away games in winning positions.   
It is certainly time for the senior players to step up, if we finish I cannot see Wenger keeping his job, maybe it is time for him to retire or to be sacked! Time will tell, but for now we must forget about tonight, take all the positives and move on. We outclassed Man U in the second half and if RVP and Ramsey took their chances who knows what could of happened. With games against Bolton, Blackburn and Spurs to come we should try and at least get 7 points and hope Chelsea slip up along the way. Well done to Man U on the win, they have really punished us over the past few years, but with that second half performance I have faith in my team, we certainly have the talent, maybe with a change of formation or game plan we can go on and finish the campaign on a high. Gunner Forever.
             Valencia (Giggs assist) 46’                                                  
             RVP (OX assist) 71’
             Welbeck (Valencia assist) 81’
-Class is permanent-

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Soccer's Achilles' heel

Over the past few weeks it has come to my attention and probably the attention of many soccer fans across the globe that there are some reoccurring problems over the past year or so that really need to be sorted out by FIFA or whoever is in charge of soccer and want to see the best out soccer in the future.
Firstly, Vincent Kompany’s tackle on Nani in the FA cup third round tie that earned him a straight red from the referee is something that seriously bothers me as a soccer fanatic and lover of the beautiful game. Yes he went in with two feet, yes studs were showing, BLA BLA BLA! The fundamental thing about the tackle is he got the ball, and isn’t that what counts? I am happy that the Referee board and FIFA punish players that intently want to take out and injure other  players,  but can they maybe just teach the refs ,especially in the premier league, to at least be consistent, there have been countless tackles made that have been much worse that have gone unpunished. It would’ve been different if the big Belgium defender wanted to break Nanis leg but it was clear that he was focused on getting the ball and he did so through a good tackle, great tackle. Twenty years ago that tackle would not even been a free kick, a yellow card would even be too harsh. The red card changed the game and I think cost City the game. It is unfair and dangerous that referees have such a big say in such a big game, not only to the fans and players and the future of the game but also to themselves.
Secondly, all the recent racist incidents surrounding soccer; racism in soccer is not new at all, it has been around for many years especially in countries like Italy and England with Mario Ballioteli being a recent victim while playing for Inter Milan. It is near impossible to control this sort of behaviour from the crowd, but then at least the players on the pitch must keep themselves away from this sort of behaviour, but they don’t. Luis Suarez and John Terry are two world class players that have sadly contributed to the growing problem of racism in soccer over the past few months, abusing Patrice Evra and Anton Ferdinand respectively. We will never be 100% sure that they did do it, but even the thought of doing it is enough and truly sad. I am glad to see that Suarez has been punished for what he did, in the process letting the whole Liverpool world down. The players on the pitch must start to set the example though and I am sure with time the fans will follow.
Other problems that surround football are the growing amount of injuries, players simply play too much soccer these days, for example Lionel Messi plays between 60-70 games a year, that is way too much!
Other problems are the amount of derbies that are being played especially between Barcelona and Real Madrid. The two best teams in the La Liga have played each other once this season but will still play each other once more in the league, twice over the next two weeks in the Spanish cup and depending on the Champions league draw and further cup action they might still play each other another two to three times before the season ends. Yes I love watching the El Classico but too much of a good thing is well, not good! If this goes on I am worried that the passion of the derby will disappear between all the games.
Lastly, the amount of money that is being flashed in front of young players faces over the past decade or so has really become a huge problem in soccer. Young players are being lured by huge clubs through massive pay cheques and it is sad and worrying if you’re a soccer fan. Teenage soccer stars are attracted to big name clubs for all the wrong reasons and loyalty to a club and passion for a club is thrown out of the window thanks to huge amounts of money. Carlos Tevez is a brilliant example of a soccer player that swapped loyalty for money.     
Following the Ballon d’or last week I would just like to add that it is no surprise to me that Lionel Messi won the award for yet another year. The little flea is a truly awesome footballer and a true ambassador of the sport. Down to earth, professional with a love of the game, he is someone all soccer lovers should look up to. I just wish Xavi won the award, he has been a great servant of the game, and a true professional. He is nearing the end of his career, having played 400 games for Barcelona so far. It would of been great to see the best midfielder in the world to be awarded for his contribution to the game.   
Gunner view: I am happy to see that The King has returned to the Emirates for a second spell. Henry is a legend at the club, having scored 227 goals in 382 games. While his inclusion in the team for two months is a huge positive for the players and fans alike. I just feel Wenger still has a hell of a lot of work to do in the transfer market if he wants to see the team improve and reach the heights of The Invincible’s. We seriously need defenders, with Per Mertesacker being a disappointment so far, and with Thomas Vermaelen constantly missing through injury this problem must be looked at immediately. With Jack Wilshere returning to the team in the next month or so our midfield should be strong enough, with Song being on great form. Robin van Persie is Arsenals best player by a country mile, but he can’t carry the club forever, he seriously needs a striking partner that performs consistently if we look to go forward and build. Wenger has signed pour strikers over the past five years, Arshavin and Chamakh’s performance over the last few months is enough evidence.
Best player over the past week: Song has been solid and Henry’s influence has been graet
Worst player over the past week: Arshavin is pour asnd should be sold a.s.a.p.   
Best upcoming player: Ignasi Miquel, the Spaniard is one for the future!
-Class is permanent-