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Archive for February 2008

The Jets soar

The Jets success has continued in the awards arena with Joel Griffiths winning the Johnny Warren Medal plus the 2007-8 golden boot for his 12 goals this season.

The award for Griffiths is not surprising for a player who was so influential for the Jets throughout the season and had 12 goals to his name.

The other awards won by the Jets were the A-League Coach of the Year Award won by their coach Gary Van Egmond and A-League Fair Play Award.

The Jets on Sunday denied the Central Coast Mariners the double after beating them 1 nil in a tight contest but once again there has been some controversy after the Mariners were denied what appeared like a clear cut penalty.

At last year's grand final the controversy came from comments from Adelaide United especially from their captain at the time Rossi Aloisi after their humiliating loss to Melbourne Victory but I think this year the controversy has come from Danny Vukovic who was send off for striking the referee Mark Sheilds.

He has since been banned for 15 months with six months suspended, a ban which is less than what I expected. That ban means that he will be back in November and therefore he will miss around three months of action because between now and August its off-season.

I actually think the ban should have covered a whole season but I am waiting to see what happens on appeal.

I don't think there is any need to talk about the ban for the Olympics or not because he should simply be banned from that because he will not be participating in club football.

My focus A-League wise will now turn to the Asian Champions League where Melbourne will play their first match against Chunnam Dragons at the Telstra Dome. With just one team getting promotion into the next stage its going its going to be tough but whatever happens I think the experience will be worthwhile.

India reach finals

Last night India reached the finals where they are going to play Australia to decide the winner of the ongoing triangular between also involving Sri Lanka.

I have been disappointed with Sri Lanka so far and now they have just one game left to play against Australia which will mean nothing with the finals confirmed when Sri Lanka lost to India by seven wickets.

Some of their matches have been rain affected like last week's match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and even when they have not they have not played as well as I expected them to do.

On the other hand Australia have shown some real talent in the bowling department and its no surprise that Brett Lee won the Allan Border medal last night.

The bowlers have really helped poor totals especially the sub 200 ones and they will need to do the same against India in the finals.

Last year Australia lost the triangular series finals to England and so it will not be good to lose two in a row and I will be following the finals series with a lot of interest. It will be good if the final if the final is decided in a third game.

Meanwhile there is a bit of controversy again after Matthew Hayden described Harbhajan Singh as an "obnoxious little weed" and Cricket Australia have charged him with breaching of Cricket Australia's code of conduct.

Mariners gun for double against Jets

The Central Coast Mariners will be aiming for a double when they meet Newcastle Jets on Sunday in the A-League Grand final at the Sydney Football Stadium.

Just like last season both teams in the grand final have qualified for the 2009 Asian Champions League because the Mariners as minor premiers take one position and then because they have reached the final the other finalist will automatically take the other position whether they win or lose the final.

I think the Mariners had a good start to the season and I remember watching them play against Melbourne Victory at Telstra Dome in a goalless draw early in the season and they looked like a solid unit but the addition of John Aloisi helped them to become even better.

I think they deserve their place in the finals as minor premiers but Sunday is a one-off match and anything is possible.

These teams have played each other lately in the major semi-final and the Jets won the first leg 2 nil whilst the Mariners won the return leg 3 nil after extra time.

I think the Jets let themselves down by trying to defend the two goal margin and hence they defended from the start but I think that they defended too deep as well and thats something thats not their natural form of play.

If they play offensively this time with their normal type of play keeping possession of the ball even if they take an early lead then I think they can be declared A-League champions come Sunday.

When the season started I expected the Jets to struggle especially after losing play maker Nicky Carle but they didn't really struggle and their only problem was their signing of Mario Jardel who failed to make an impact of any sort.

I think its good to see that in the 2009 Asian Champions League, the A-League will be represented by two teams that have never played in that competition before and I think that spreads the experience to other teams in the league.

Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Makoni square up

After last week's nominations, the candidates for the Zimbabwe March 2008 presidential election will be Robert Mugabe for Zanu PF, Morgan Tsvangirai of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and two independent candidates, Simba Makoni and Langton Towungana.

I think the real interesting thing for me is that the winner has to have at least 51% of the votes and failing that there will be a run-off between the two top candidates and in that case that brings the question of who will come third.

I think its realistic to think that both Tsvangirai and Makoni will get more than 20% percent of the votes and their total votes will be more than 50% and if that were to happen then there will be a run-off and thats where things could become interesting and I will briefly look at the different scenarios.

If Makoni finishes third then it means Mugabe will have to face Tsvangirai in a repeat of the 2002 Presidential elections. The winner will depend on whether Makoni's supporters will go for Mugabe or Tsvangirai.

In the event that Tsvangirai finishes third then the run-off will be between Makoni and Mugabe. I think in that case Makoni would win because most of Tsvangirai's supporters will be more likely to vote for Makoni and not Mugabe.

The last scenario would be the most interesting one and that will be if Mugabe finishes third. That means Makoni will run against Tsvangirai and Mugabe's supporters will for the first time see a presidential election not featuring Mugabe and they will have to choose between Makoni and Tsvangirai and I think that will be a very uncomfortable decision indeed for them to make.

I think if the third scenario were to happen then that will be the hardest run-off to call.

I am still to read about what Langton Towungana has to offer but I doubt he will cause problems to the other three main candidates.

Australia top triangular series

Australia have won the last two triangular series matches despite scoring low totals and the latest match was today in Adelaide where India lost by 50 runs.

I have watched the last two matches Australia has played against Sri Lanka and then India and in both cases I thought Australia would lose but they somehow managed to defend what looked like small targets.

At the Waca Australia batted first and could only manage 236 runs thanks to Adam Gilchrist's ton but Sri Lanka could not reach that target as they lost by 63 runs. Kumar Sangakkara starred for Sri Lanka scoring 80 runs.

At the Adelaide Oval today, Australia only managed 203 runs after another top order collapse but India still lost by 50 runs and its now safe to say that Australia will be in the series final.

The Australian top order batsmen are failing to get the runs but the bowlers are saving the day for them. It looks like its a question of in-form bowlers and off-form batsmen but at the moment its working alright.

I think Sri Lanka now have a lot of work to do in order to reach the final but their first step is to beat India in the next match.

Egypt retain African crown

Egypt this morning successfully defended its Africa Cup of Nations title after beating Cameroon by a lone goal scored in the second half.

Egypt won the last tournament when it was the host but they proved that that win was no fluke as they beat the determined Cameroonian side who could not deal with the Pharaoh's fast free flowing football.

This was Egypt's record sixth crown and ironically had Cameroon won they would have equaled Egypt previous of a record five titles.

Egypt scored in the second half when Mohamed Aboutrika received a pass from Mohamed Zidan when he tussled the ball off Rigobert Song.

I think Carlos Kameni, the goalkeeper, did very well to make sure that the match was goalless up to that stage because he made a number of crucial saves to thwart the Pharoah's attacks.

I am now hoping to see Egypt qualify for the 2010 World Cup and see what they can do at the world stage. I still think that their toughest test was against Ivory Coast but they easily passed that one and now the next stage should be the World Cup.

Meanwhile in the third place playoff match hosts Ghana won a consolation third place when they beat Ivory Coast 4-1. Credit to both teams as they fielded strong teams for this bronze medal match.

From conceding no goal at all up to the semi-finals, Ivory Coast conceded 8 goals in their last two matches of the tournament and that should be cause for concern for a team with so much potential.

This African Nations Cup finished without a single match of the knockout phase going into a penalty shoot out plus only one match went into extra time. Its good to see matches settled in normal time of play.

The next tournament will now be in Angola in two years time and I hope it will be a repeat of Ghana 2008 in terms of success and I hope that Angola will also produce a colourful and successful tournament like Ghana did.

Egypt to meet Cameroon in final

The hosts Ghana and the favourites Ivory Coast were stunned this morning when they lost to Cameroon and Egypt respectively who will now meet in the final of the 2008 Africa Nations Cup in Accra.

The hosts Ghana would have made it three in a row for hosts to reach the final but they could not get a goal against the determined Cameroon side who will now feature in a final for the first time in six years.

The much touted clash between Ghana and Ivory Coast will now take place a day before most people thought it would take place in a third place playoff match. A win for either team will see them get a bronze medal but I don't think that is what they were thinking a day ago.

To put it into context I think the biggest blow to Ivory Coast was the injury to their first choice goalkeeper Boubacar Barry who got injured in the first half to be replaced by Stephan Loboue. Loboue hasn't played first team football for the whole season and I think he came in in the wrong match and with the team already losing when he came on that did not help his confidence.

But credit to Egypt who had a game plan and executed it well. They haven't lost yet in these finals and they now meet a Cameroon side they beat in their first match and that will make the final very interesting indeed.

Egypt last met Cameroon in a final in 1986 and won on penalties but I hope this final will not go to penalties. So far no match has gone to a shoot-out which is good I think.

For Ghana and Ivory Coast I think its a chance lost when a lot of people expected them at least to reach the final. I think Ghana will need some better strikers to move on to the next level because I think thats the area where they are light-weight and Ivory Coast have think about who to have as a backup goalkeeper.

Makoni: friend or foe?

Former Zimbabwe Finance Minister Dr Simba Makoni announced earlier in the week that he will run for presidency in the forthcoming Zimbabwe general elections and his move has rattled both the ruling Zanu PF party and the major opposition the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Since the start of the year there had been rumours that Makoni was going to start a new party drawing its leadership mostly from the ruling party but he will instead be standing as an independent candidate which is a very interesting scenario.

So I think both the ruling party and the opposition must be wondering whether Makoni is a friend or not. For a start I think Makoni will draw support from disgruntled Zanu PF supporters as well as dissatisfied MDC supporters but the question is how much will that support be and will that be enough to carry him over the line.

A lot of questions are flying already and one of them is how many people will be prepared to vote for an independent presidential candidate and then how independent will he be. Also is an independent president the way to go for Zimbabwe or is a party sponsored candidate a better one since he or she will be answerable at least to his party.

In his speech he suggested that he will form a government of national unity but what stops him from drawing most of his cabinet from the Zanu PF since he supposedly knows them better.

For the opposition MDC they have problems of their own after their split but I think they should fear that he will take most of his support from the urban areas because those are the people who are likely to know who Makoni is. That should be a worry for the MDC.

In the rural areas I doubt he will have much in-road especially as he doesn't have a party to rally around him but will be depending on his name to get through. I don't think Zanu PF will be very much worried about that.

But to me the big question remains: why did he leave it until so late? Will he be able to dissociate himself from the policies of a government he was so closely linked until this week?

I think we will see some of the answers when he goes on the campaign trail and start asking people to vote for him and not Robert Mugabe or Morgan Tsvangirai and tell them that he is the answer to Zimbabwe's mounting problems.

To finish off I think its a good thing that he has come out to challenge Zanu PF and I think that has taken a lot of bravery on his part but he has a lot of work to do if he is going to win the presidential election.

Egypt face Ivorian challenge

After this morning's quarter final matches in the Africa Cup of Nations the Ivory Coast will meet Egypt in a repeat of the 2006 final which Egypt won on penalties.

Two years ago it was a goalless draw and the host team won their fifth trophy after winning the shootout but I doubt very much that the match will go to penalties this time.

Ivory Coast are still to concede a goal so far in these finals and were Egypt to score they would be the first team to score against them.

I think Egypt lack the cutting edge of the Ivorians. I can see the Elephants winning the match and going on to win the final where they would meet the winner between Ghana and Cameroon.

I think that the match between Ghana and Cameroon could be the match that could lead to the first penalty shoot out in this year's tournament.

I think Ghana has been playing enough to win their matches but I was impressed with their win against Nigeria where they won with ten players.

I think against Cameroon they will need all their eleven players if they are to please the home crowd.

Against Tunisia all eyes were on Samuel E'too to see if he was going to increase on his five goal tally so far but it was Stephane Mbia who stole the limelight as he scored a brace.

I thought Tunisia did well to come back from two goals down and then force extra time but Cameroon looked the better side throughout and I think they deserve to reach the semis.

Six years ago Cameroon were the leading African side having won the Nations Cup in 2000 and 2002 but now they are not and I think the current team would like to restore their pride back by reaching the final at least and possibly winning it.

Ghana will have the home support and I think they will also rely heavily on Michael Essien but they will have the work cut out against a determined Cameroonian side.

Scaling the heights of inflation

Last week Zimbabwe's official annual inflation figure rose to 24,000 percent but this figure is thought to be less than a fifth of the actual figure.

This figure is not surprising given that in December 2007 three notes of $200,000, $500,000 and $750,000 were introduced by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the highest note could not buy a loaf of bread because the price had already gone beyond a million dollars.

Therefore in January three more notes were introduced and this time they were for $2 million, $5 million and $10 million and this time the highest note could at least buy three loaves of bread.

Less than three years an idea was hatched to remove three zeros and that would put today's prices into billions.

I think that as long the fundamental economic problems are not solved and corruption is tackled head on the inflation rate will continue to rise but right now it seems like nobody is interested in that at all with ruling party Zanu PF focusing on the upcoming elections scheduled for the end of March.

Morocco, Senegal bow out

I think Morocco and Senegal were the surprise eliminations from the quarter-finals of the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations but I also think their replacements Guinea and Angola duly deserved to advance.

Its good to see Angola advance beyond the group stages for the first time and to do so they had to beat Senegal who I thought played quite well against Tunisia but could only get a draw.

Guinea also deserve to be in the last eight after nearly getting a draw against the hosts in the first match but ended up losing to a late goal by Sully Muntari.

Looking at the quarter-finals, Ghana versus Nigeria promises to be a very interesting fixture indeed but I expect the Black Stars to go past the Super Eagles of Nigeria. I am still not convinced by Nigeria and I think they need some to get their squad to gel a little bit more.

I think Nigeria has a good squad of individuals but it is a team that will win you games just like Angola is showing.

Ivory Coast has scored eight goals so far and I expect them to score more as they go past Guinea but I think the match is going to be won by a small margin because Guinea have shown already how good a team they are especially when they beat Morocco.

Egypt against Angola must be very interesting match especially with the way Egypt are playing and for Angola to get something out of this match I think they have to slow down the match and dictate it. I can see this match as one that could be decided by penalties.

The last quarter final match will see Tunisia play Cameroon. I haven't been convinced by Tunisia so far and I think the resurgent Cameroon side should be able to go past them.

Samuel E'too now holds the record of the highest scorer at the Africa Nations Cup and I think Tunisia will have a tough time preventing him from increasing his record. But against Egypt Cameroon's defence was exposed and if the Tunisians can do what Egypt did then anything is possible.

Lastly I don't know what plans South Africa had for this tournament and whatever they are I think they have a lot of work to do before hosting the next World Cup in two years time.