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By Ben McKay and Steve Larkin In contrast to Australian efforts on the world stage in other sports, the Socceroos have only honest toiling and heartache to fall back on at the World Cup.
Hell, it even claimed coach Ange Postecoglou, who couldn’t contend with the struggles and packed his bags shortly after Australia’s berth was secured.
The Socceroos’ road to reach the World Cup in Russia next month has been remarkable and record-breaking.
But for the Socceroos, that’s not new.
Sent by FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation on the longest path required to qualify for a World Cup, Australia overcame a 22-match, 29-month effort of innumerable kilometres in the air to confirm their place at the 2018 tournament. It began in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in June 2015 and concluded in November 2017 with a home-and-away defeat of Honduras – both nations that the Socceroos had never faced, nor probably ever dreamed of facing. Mat Ryan, Tom Rogic, Aaron Mooy, Matthew Leckie and Trent Sainsbury. (Photo: Nike Australia)
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Yes, it’s been arduous.
It’s always been tough. Rotten or rigged pathways out of Oceania were replaced last decade with highly competitive journeys through the sprawling Asian confederation. While the Socceroos have now reached four finals in a row, they’re yet to deliver a payoff worthy of the journey. Australia will participate in a fifth World Cup when kick-off comes along against France in Kazan on June 16. Each of the Socceroos’ trips to the World Cup finals have brought honest toil and heartbreak.
The 1974 trailblazers, embodied by Johnny Warren, captained by Peter Wilson and coached by Rale Rasic, left their jobs to partake in sport’s greatest show but couldn’t score a goal to give their achievement a celebratory moment they deserved. Losses to East Germany and host West Germany was followed by a 0-0 draw with Chile, prompting one West German newspaper to print an apology for labelling them as no-hopers. It took 32 years for the Socceroos to return to the tournament – hosted once more by Germany. The 2006 campaign was Australia’s best to date, featuring the first goal, first win, and first – and only – time through the group stage. Tim Cahill’s late brace in a 3-1 defeat of Japan was the country’s modern awakening on the world stage. An honourable loss to Brazil and dramatic draw with Croatia later, Australia was in the round of 16. Knowing how it would work out, perhaps it might not have spent the effort. Matched with powerhouse Italy, Australia took it up to the Azzurri but fell victim to a piece of injury-time gamesmanship that haunts players to this day. Captain Lucas Neill’s slide in on Italian Fabio Grosso, who initiated contact to earn a penalty, converted into the match winner by Francesco Totti for a 1-0 result. “Maybe I accentuated it a little bit,” Grosso said, a master of understatement. Neill, and Australia, coached by Guus Hiddink, were inconsolable. “For the rest of my life it will eat away at me,” Neill said. Defeat four years later in South Africa would be swifter. A first-up 4-0 shellacking by Germany knocked the stuffing
OVERALL Played: 13 Wins: 2 Draws: 3 Losses: 8
out of Australia’s hopes. It was eventually decisive. A 1-1 draw with Ghana meant the Socceroos needed to win and win well against Serbia; they could only do the former. A 2-1 win, with Cahill back after a red card against Germany to score, meant Pim Verbeek’s side missed the knockout round by goal difference. Australia’s last outing at the World Cup will always be remembered for the one that got away. With Postecoglou inheriting the reins late in the build-up, given the imprimatur to blood young players, and drawn against giants Netherlands, Chile and reigning champions Spain, the Socceroos were never given a chance. They nearly pulled something remarkable off. Cahill’s wonder volley against the Dutch is rightfully acclaimed as one of the greatest goals the tournament has ever seen, and when Mile Jedinak followed it with a goal from the penalty spot, Australia was 2-1 up in Porto Alegre. It couldn’t hold on as Memphis Depay scored the winner for a 3-2 result – to go with the first-up 3-1 loss to Chile and a dead rubber 3-0 defeat by Spain. The insertion of Postecoglou into the top job before Brazil has parallels with Bert van Marwijk’s late hiring before Russia. Whether the Dutchman will endure a similar heartache to his compatriot Hiddink in 2006, or the brutally honest reminder of where Australia sits in the pecking order that Postecoglou received in 2014, remains to be seen. But given Australia’s history, pain should be expected.
Finished: 14th (exited after group stage) Played: 3 (1 draw 2 losses) East Germany 2 def Australia 0 West Germany 3 def Australia 0 Chile 0 drew with Australia 0
Finished: 16th (made round of 16) Played 4 (1 win 1 draw 2 losses) Australia 3 def Japan 1 Brazil 2 def Australia 0 Australia 2 drew with Croatia 2 Round of 16: Italy 1 bt Australia 0
Finished: 21st (exited after group stage) Played 3 (1 win 1 draw 1 loss) Germany 4 def Australia 0 Australia 1 drew with Ghana 1 Australia 2 def Serbia 1
Finished: 30th (exited after group stage) Played 3 (3 losses) Chile 3 def Australia 1 Netherlands 3 def Australia 2 Spain 3 def Australia 0
5 - Tim Cahill 2 - Brett Holman 1 - Mile Jedinak, John Aloisi, Harry Kewell, Craig Moore
STARWEEKLY \ FOOTBALL MADNATION 5
By Ewen McRae Once every four years, the biggest game in the world gets even bigger. The FIFA World Cup attracts more viewers than the Olympics, and will be the cause of many late nights across the country as we watch our Socceroos compete in Russia – the hosts of this year’s finals. In the multicultural west of Melbourne, the game is bigger than ever, with local clubs growing strongly and preparing for a month-long celebration of football. Sunshine George Cross president Jamie Chetcuti said the excitement was building at his club as the countdown was on. “Every four years it’s a very exciting time for the whole country, not just for our club,” Mr Chetcuti said. “It’s the biggest sport in the world, so as soon as the World Cup starts there’s an extra 200,000 kids in Australia who want to play our game. So it keeps the game growing.
Australia's Andrew Nabbout (Photo: AP Tim Ireland)
Andrew Nabbout – who is in the Socceroos preliminary 26-man squad for this year’s tournament – spent three years at the club from 2009-11, and Mr Chetcuti said the club was proud to see another of their own in the national set-up. “We’ve always contributed players to the national side, so we’re very proud to see Andrew getting his chance to hopefully compete on the biggest stage,” he said. “He’s been one of the best A-League players over the course of the season, and now he’s got a contract overseas, so it’s exciting for him and we’ll be cheering him on if he makes the final squad.” St Albans Saints know the thrill of seeing one of their own go on to great things, with former player Ivan Franjic part of the starting XI for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Franjic played his first senior games at the Saints, before moving up the ranks to the A-League and eventually making his Australian debut in 2012.
“Over the four weeks that the finals are on you definitely feel the excitement around, bigger crowds at our senior games. We’ll do some watch parties for our members which will be great fun.”
While Franjic won’t be competing in this year’s tournament, Saints president Marc Maric said the 2014 World Cup was a huge moment for his club.
Sunshine George Cross has a rich history when it comes to contributing to the national team, with former Socceroos Kevin Muscat, Craig Foster and John Markovski all spending time at the club.
“Everyone kept a keen eye on that one, and then when he came back to the club we had a night where all the juniors could come and get around him, which was fantastic for the club. He’s our current number one
“That got a lot of people really excited,” Mr Maric said.
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Ivan Franjic of the Socceroos (Photo: AAP Image/Lukas Coch)
ticket holder … not many clubs can say they have a World Cup player in that position, which is pretty cool.” The Saints have a rich history in Australia’s Croatian community, after it was established by Croatian migrants in 1975. Mr Maric said there would be a keen interest in the fortunes of both Australia and Croatia in Russia. Green Gully SC also has a strong fingerprint on the current squad, with Nabbout and fellow squad member Aziz Behich both playing for the club in the past. Club president Dennis Venes said the club was always proud to see former players in green and gold, and the World Cup was a chance to join together with the wider community to celebrate the game. “We’re very proud of the fact we’ve got two former players in the current squad, so the club is a good breeding ground for the A-League and the Socceroos,” Mr Venes said. “We’re anticipating a resurgence in interest in the game after the World Cup, and especially at our junior trials later in the year, where last year we had over 600 kids trial with us. That will be bigger again we think.”
We’re anticipating a resurgence in interest in the game after the World Cup – Dennis Venes
Green Gully plans to show Socceroos games and other big matches on the club’s big screen throughout the tournament.
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By Lance Jenkinson A former Altona Magic youth player, Goran Lozanovski had a glittering career in the old National Soccer League, played as a professional overseas and even featured in the inaugural season of the A-League. Now 44, he is back to where it all started, coaching the Altona Magic. Lozanovski’s proudest memories as a player came after he rose through the Australia youth team ranks and became an Olyroo and Socceroo. He played at the Summer Olympics and featured in national team games, including FIFA World Cup qualifiers. “It was a great experience that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life,” Lozanovski said of his international career. Lozanovski was involved in the Australian national team set-up from 1993 to 1998. An attacking midfielder noted for his dead ball prowess, he was part of the Australian under 20s and graduated to the under 23s before getting his first cap as a Socceroo in 1996. He spent three years as a Socceroo before injuries caught up with him. Lozanovski went on to have a brilliant club career, winning consecutive national league titles with South Melbourne, including winning the Joe Marston Medal for player of the
match in the 1998-99 grand final. He had a brief stint with Alemennia Aachen in Germany and a season with Adelaide United in the A-League. His senior career started at Preston Makedonia in 1991 and he finished back at the same club 17 years later. Lozanovski did it all as a player and has enjoyed the past decade coaching locally. He’s ticked all the boxes - except for playing in a FIFA World Cup. He knows how hard it is for a nation to qualify for soccer’s showpiece event, so is full of admiration for the Socceroos who have made it. This crop of Socceroos has not received the publicity or the adulation of the 2006, 2010 or 2014 teams, probably because of the drawn-out qualifying phase that ended with victory over Honduras in a two-leg qualifier back in November. There is also a sense that the Socceroos are in a transition phase and possibly making up the numbers. That may be proven to be the case, but Lozanovski believes this team should be feted in the same way as the previous Australian teams that made it to the World Cups. “It’s so hard to get there, it’s an achievement to get there,” he said. “We should be proud of that team.” When Lozanovski played for the Socceroos, he did so as an Australian-based player.
Qualifying through Oceania was different to the Asian qualifying format today. The Socceroos would generally coast through the bulk of their matches against neighbouring nations and then meet the fifth-ranked South American team for a two-leg playoff to determine which nation goes to the World Cup. The Australian-based players would have to make way for the returning European-based players for the pointy end of the qualifying campaigns, which was not ideal for team cohesion and frustrating for the players who featured in the lead-up matches, but Lozanovski said he was not complaining as he got the chance to play on the international stage. “It was obviously a great experience to be a part of the Socceroo set-up and to be playing in tournaments and qualifiers,” he said. Lozanovski reckons the best thing that happened to the Socceroos was joining the Asian Football Confederation, as it took the luck out of qualifying and gave Australia a chance if they were good enough. Lozanovski is eagerly counting down the days until the World Cup kicks off in Russia – as is everybody in club land. “Everyone at our club is getting excited about the World Cup,” he said. “We’ll have a few World Cup nights and have a few games televised and the food and drinks going. We’re all looking forward to seeing Australia do well.”
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Far left: Goran Lozanovski, now coaching the Altona Magic, and in his Australian playing days. (Photos: Damian Visentini/Peter Mathew)
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By Esther Lauaki Josip Hercog is living his dream. The young sports fan from Fraser Rise is bound for Russia in June to attend the FIFA World Cup where he will have media accreditation to follow one of his home teams, Croatia. Josip will first travel to Croatia to visit family and celebrate his 21st birthday before he embarks on his first big gig as a fledgling journalist. He was two years into a degree in journalism at Deakin University when he landed a job at a Croatian newspaper reporting on local and international sport in January. This month he received confirmation from the football federation, after a lengthy application process, he would be receiving a media pass for the World Cup – so he deferred completion of his studies for the “opportunity of a lifetime”. “This is a dream come true for me,” he said. “I dreamed of playing football all my life. I played for a number of years when I was young, however after a number of knockbacks I decided to think of other things that I could do. “I love sport so I knew that I wanted to follow sport.” He’s being mentored by veteran television journalist Peter Hitchener. “I work and volunteer at six different jobs to get … journalism experience.” (Photo: Marco De Luca)
Josip will be in the media box at two Croatia games.
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Socceroos head coach Bert van Marwijk. (Photo: AAP Image/Brendan Esposito)
By Steve Larkin Bert van Marwijk, Australia’s new coach, is a world champion in a complex game of deep-thinking tactics. Sound far-fetched? A futuristic fantasy? An impossible dream for Australia’s football coach at next month’s World Cup in Russia? Well, van Marwijk already is a world champion – not at football, but a card game. The Dutchman, who will oversee Australia’s World Cup campaign and then step aside for Graham Arnold, is a klaverjassen champion. The game, similar to bridge, is among the most popular card games in the Netherlands. Traditionally played in social clubs and cafes, klaverjassen is played in pairs. And in 1975, Lambertus ‘Bert’ van Marwijk teamed with his father to win the world championship. Some 43 years on, van Marwijk still keeps his cards close to his chest. Van Marwijk, who was 66 on May 19, publicly uses broad brush strokes rather than intricate sketches.
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Many reckon he’s on a hiding to nothing. But he’s hiding something.
Van Marwijk’s outlook has been cultured over his footballing lifetime.
Dutch journalists labelled van Marwijk pragmatic. Conservative. No-nonsense. No-frills.
“I have something in mind but I will not explain to you,” he said when announcing his preliminary Socceroos World Cup squad.
In 1975, the year he became a klaverjassen world champion, van Marwijk won his sole cap for the Netherlands – his international career lasted 45 minutes until substituted.
“Publicly, he lacks charm. He is dour and dry and quickly irritated,” one journalist wrote.
Van Marwijk was appointed Australian coach in January as a short-term fix, after Ange Postecogolou quit two months earlier. Like Postecoglou, van Marwijk had resigned his post after securing World Cup qualification – for Saudi Arabia. Van Marwijk quit when the Saudis insisted he permanently live in the kingdom. “I will not let anyone tell me how to do my job,” he said when resigning. The Saudis had played Australia in the qualification campaign, so he already had studied the Socceroos. Plus, he’s coached at a World Cup before. In 2010, van Marwijk led the Netherlands to the World Cup final but lost 1-0 in extra-time to Spain. The Dutch, long-renowned for their penchant for eye-pleasing football, went down swinging: eight yellow cards and one red. In a pointer to his philosophy, van Marwijk was unperturbed: bugger total football, he wanted the result. “I like to have the ball and I like to play fast football,” he said. “I like to play football in a way that you don’t touch a ball three times if you can touch it two times.
Five years later, aged 28, van Marwijk conceded the cards he’d been dealt as an injury-plagued winger and started youth coaching. In 1988, he ended his 19-year playing career which began at the Go Ahead Eagles, a Dutch first-division club in his historic home town of Deventer. Focused on coaching, he spent seven years with amateur Dutch clubs until 1998 when appointed manager of first-division Fortuna Sittard – he took the club to the Dutch Cup final a year later, but lost. In 2000, van Marwijk took over Feyenoord and became known as an uncompromising boss by his players, including Australian Brett Emerton. “He can be quite demanding ... if you don’t do what he asks, you will find yourself sitting on the sidelines pretty quickly,” Emerton said. His tough love delivered success – he won a UEFA Cup with Feyenoord before moving to Germany in 2004 to manage Borussia Dortmund.
“I like to play offensive football. But I also like to win.
Van Marwijk spent two-and-a-half years in Dortmund before a second spell at Feyenoord, where he won the Dutch Cup before being appointed the Netherlands’ coach in 2008.
“So I will not hesitate to take decisions in games that I think that I can win in another way.”
The high-profile nature of the national job was uncomfortable for a private man who prefers shadows to a spotlight.
After the 2010 World Cup run, seven authors combined to write a biography of van Marwijk. One of the authors, Edwin Schoon, was tasked with a chapter on the manager’s philosophy. The author found the common theme from van Marwijk’s players was: “You’re fine as long as you stick to his rules. When you cross the line, though, you’re in trouble.” Van Marwijk and the Oranje parted after a disappointing 2012 European Championships. He returned to Germany to coach Hamburg, where he spent two years before taking the reins of Saudi Arabia in 2015. Now, he’s tunnel-visioned on Australia’s World Cup campaign which starts against France on June 16 before fixtures against Denmark and Peru. How far can he take the Socceroos? “That is very difficult. And I don’t even think about it,” van Marwijk said. “I only think about the first game. That, for me, is the most important. “And I already told the players: I don’t want to hear anything about the other games ... I’m not the type who is thinking about what is happening afterwards.” - AAP
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France's Paul Pogba celebrates after the Euro 2016 semi-final between Germany and France. (APP Photo/Michael Sohn)
By Ben McKay
Whichever way you cut it, the Socceroos will be up against it.
The Socceroos’ attack is dependant on Tomi Juric, a lion-hearted but less-than-prolific number nine, with Tim Cahill still the national team’s best impact player at the age of 38.
A limited squad, tough group and backroom shake-up make Australia outsiders to progress from the group stage in Russia, let alone impact the tournament in the knock-out rounds.
The prospect of teenager Daniel Arzani running at opposing defenders is exciting, but the Melbourne City winger is untested at international level.
But it’s for these reasons the most-capped Socceroo of all time, Mark Schwarzer, believes Australia is a chance to emulate the golden generation of 2006 and reach the last 16.
Right-back remains a major problem, with no player able to lock down the position since the last World Cup.
The Socceroos need to defy two of those sides to continue on past their group. Chief among that challenge will be subduing Christian Eriksen, the Tottenham Hotspur playmaker who runs the show for Denmark.
“I’m quietly confident.
And with a stable central defensive partnership the foundation of so many successful national teams, it’s concerning that no choice stands out alongside Trent Sainsbury, plainly the Socceroos’ best defender.
“We’re in a group that’s do-able. I say it’s do-able because it’s achievable to get out of the group if things go our way.
But there’s strength in goal and in midfield, where van Marwijk has a number of options.
“When teams underestimate us, that’s when we’re at our best.” Australia’s squad has certainly seen better days.
Mat Ryan should start as Australia’s No.1 but in Mitchell Langerak and Brad Jones, the Dutchman can feel confident in his choices.
If Australia’s hopes are still alive by the final match, they’ll face the high-intensity South Americans on June 26 in Winter Olympics host city Sochi.
Eight players named in Bert van Marwijk’s 32-man extended squad haven’t played a single minute of competitive football for the national team.
Tom Rogic, Aaron Mooy, Massimo Luongo and Mile Jedinak will
Three of the world’s top 12-ranked nations – France, Denmark and Peru – stand in the way of the Socceroos in their World Cup group.
“We’re seen as the underdog, the team less likely, and I don’t mind that,” Schwarzer told AAP.
14 STARWEEKLY \ FOOTBALL MADNATION
It speak volumes that in the middle of the park, the debate is about who to squeeze out of the team.
all believe they should be starting against France on June 16, with Jackson Irvine snapping at their heels. Given Australia’s taxing group stage opponents, van Marwijk is likely to rotate his side in the hope of qualifying. After the world No.7 French come Denmark and Peru – ranked 12th and 11th in the global standings.
After the opener in Kazan, Australia plays the Danes on June 21 in nearby Samara.
It’s an arduous challenge – which is why they’ve turned to an experienced hand to steer the side. In the wake of Ange Postecoglou’s remarkable decision to turn down the chance to lead the Socceroos to a World Cup he qualified
Team Ranking 2018 FIFA WORLD CUP RUSSIA Twenty of the 32 teams competing in the 2018 World Cup also competed at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Cup-holder Germany and runner-up Argentina are among this year’s top-ranked teams.
WORLD RANKING — SINCE 1994 Won a World Cup previously
Rank in World Cup year
FIFA/COCA-COLA WORLD RANKING GROUP
66 70 46 17
Portugal Spain Morocco Iran
4 8 42 36
France Australia Peru Denmark
7 40 11 12
Argentina Iceland Croatia Nigeria
5 22 18 47
Brazil Switzerland Costa Rica Serbia**
2 6 25 35
Germany Mexico Sweden South Korea
1 15 23 61
Belgium Panama Tunisia England
3 55 14 13
Poland Senegal Colombia Japan
10 28 16 60
It’s a risk, given the pragmatic coach has little time to implement his plans – many of which stand in opposition to Postecoglou’s style – before the tournament kicks off. The Socceroos will have four weeks together, including a training camp in Turkey and friendly matches against Czech Republic and Hungary, to embed a game plan and belief that they can succeed in Russia. Schwarzer, who played his last match for the Socceroos in 2013 and now plies his trade as a commentator for World Cup broadcaster Optus Sport, hopes the 22-match slog that the team endured to reach the tournament will also pay off. “The players have learned a lot through the World Cup qualification process. They’re definitely stronger,” he said. - AAP
Russia Saudi Arabia Egypt Uruguay
them for, Dutchman van Marwijk has been handed the reins. FFA hope the 65-year-old’s record in taking his native Holland to the 2010 final will stand up when he returns to the showpiece event.
Note: Uruguay won the World Cup in 1930; Spain 2010; France 1998; Argentina 1978 and 1986; Brazil 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002; Germany 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014; England 1966. * As of April 2018 Source: FIFA W. Foo, 04/05/2018
** Serbia was included in the ranking in 2006
Mile Jedinak celebrates scoring a goal against Honduras during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Intercontinental play-off at Stadium Australia in Sydney. (AAP Image/Brendan Esposito)
World ranking: 40 Best World Cup finish: Round of 16, 2006 v France: June 16, Kazan Arena, Kazan, 2000 AEST v Denmark: June 21, Samara Arena, Samara, 2200 AEST v Peru: June 27, Fisht Stadium, Sochi, 0000 AEST
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The Dutchman has had precious little time – and just two friendlies – since being named as Ange Postecoglou’s replacement for the campaign in Russia. Van Marwijk, renowned as a pragmatist, controls a team reliant on midfield spark from Aaron Mooy, Celtic’s Tom Rogic and Massimo Luongo. The Australians don’t boast a formidable frontman, with Tomi Juric carrying the line, and queries hover over the impact 38-year-old Tim Cahill can have at his fourth Cup.
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World ranking: 12 Best Cup finish: Quarter-finals 1998 v Peru: June 17, Mordovia Arena, Saransk, 0200 AEST v Australia: June 21, Samara Arena, Samara, 2200 AEST v France: June 27, Luzhinki Stadium, Moscow, 0000 AEST
Australia’s record v France: Played 4, 1 win 1 draw 2 losses 26-5-94: France 1-0 (Kobe) 1-6-01: Australia 1-0 (Daegu) 11-11-01: 1-1 draw (Melbourne) 11-10-13: France 6-0 (Paris) A fine collection of French attacking talent leaves coach Didier Deschamps with envious options. He entrusts favoured strikers Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud but could opt for a 4-3-3 formation to capitalise on the speed of 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe or Ousmane Dembele. The French boss, who continues to overlook Karim Benzema, will choose from Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette, Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman and Manchester United’s Anthony Martial in attack. They’ll play ahead of a midfield featuring Paul Pogba, who has his chance to end debate as to whether he is truly world class by leading France to victory. Les Bleus have a stingy defence marshalled by Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane and have a top-shelf shotstopper in Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris, an unflappable and undisputed first-choice.
Australia’s record versus Peru: Never played.
Australia’s record v Denmark: Played 3, 1 win 2 losses 6-2-07: Denmark 3-1 (London) 1-6-10: Australia 1-0 (Roodeport) 2-6-12: Denmark 2-0 (Copenhagen)
A 36-year wait is over for Peru, whose players heading to Russia weren’t alive when the team last appeared at the World Cup.
One man determines the Danes’ World Cup – with their midfield maestro Christian Eriksen in peak form, they believe anything is possible. Eriksen, the English Premier League star, scored 11 goals in World Cup qualifying to seal the nation’s fifth Cup appearance; they got out the group stage on three of the past four occasions. Coach Age Hareide, who has spent his entire 33-year coaching career in Scandinavia, is happy to acknowledge his tactics revolve around getting Eriksen on the ball. They have a brilliant goalkeeper in Kaspar Schmeichel, who has grown from the shadow of being the son of Denmark and Manchester United goalkeeping great Peter Schmeichel, and are disciplined in a defence commanded by classy captain Simon Kjaer.
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World ranking: 11 Best Cup finish: Quarter-finals 1970 v Denmark: June 17, Mordovia Arena, Saransk, 0200 AEST v France: June 22, Central Stadium, Yekaterinburg, 0100 AEST v Australia: June 27, Fisht Stadium, Sochi, 0000 AEST
Argentine coach Ricardo Gareca snuck the team through the play-offs, beating New Zealand. But they were dealt a blow when Peru captain Paolo Guerrero had a doping ban increased from six to 14 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport after testing positive to cocaine. He will miss the World Cup. Guerrero’s scoring ability looms large with fellow attacker Jefferson Farfan to shoulder an attacking load if the former is banned, in a team looking for influence from playmaker Christian Cueva. With Pedro Gallese expecting the No.1 goalkeeping jersey after recovering from a knee injury last February, Peru’s midfield is anchored by Renato Tapia of Feyenoord and Andre Carrillo of Watford, along with Yoshimar Yotun of Orlando City.
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World ranking: 7 Best Cup finish: Champions 1998 v Australia: June 16, Kazan Arena, Kazan, 2000 AEST v Peru: June 22, Central Stadium, Yekaterinburg, 0100 AEST v Denmark: June 27, Luzinki Stadium, Moscow, 0000 AEST
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By Ben McKay Australian viewers without an Optus mobile subscription can now watch all matches at the FIFA World Cup – for a monthly fee. Telecommunications company Optus will open up access to the FIFA World Cup to non-subscribers ahead of next month’s tournament. While free-to-air broadcaster SBS has rights to 25 of the 64 matches – including all Socceroos games – Optus’ decision to launch a subscription service to non-Optus customers means Australians will be able to watch every match of the tournament for a monthly fee. Socceroos legend and Optus commentator Mark Schwarzer suggested it was a gamechanger for Australian fans ahead of the Russian tournament. “The ability to buy a pass opens the door to the Australian public,” he said. “What Optus is able to deliver in a package for the Australian football public, I have never seen before.”
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The cost will be $15 per month, and includes rights to the English Premier League – which it has renewed until 2022. The telco has held the rights to the EPL for two seasons, after winning them from long-time broadcaster Fox Sports. Optus was criticised in droves for early transmissions, which cut out or featured blocky and sluggish feeds. Schwarzer said those crinkles had been well and truly ironed out, two years into the revolutionary deal. “It’s definitely far better than it was initially, and it was proven that those issues came from the provider of the content,” he said. The World Cup kicks off on June 14, when hosts Russia play Saudi Arabia. Australia faces France in their tournamentopener two days later. - AAP
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More than a million votes from Russians made Zabivaka the official mascot for World Cup in 2018.
A local organising committee spokesman said he was certain Zabivaka the wolf will prove a massive hit among fans.
Zabivaka, a name that hints at “the one who scores” in Russian, is a wolf who radiates fun, charm and confidence. The wolf was developed by student designer Ekaterina Bocharova and received 53 per cent of votes, followed by a tiger (27 per cent) and a cat (20 per cent).
“However, his role goes far beyond simply being popular among spectators,” he said.
Votes were cast on FIFA.com, as well as through a live show on a Russian TV channel during a month-long voting period. FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura said the voting process was one of the most creative for an official mascot in World Cup history. “To get to the stage of seeing the wolf chosen today, we first collected the preferences of Russian kids through an online poll. Based on those ideas, university students submitted their designs and now the public have chosen their favourite character from among the final three,” she said.
Brazilian football legend and two-time World Cup winner, Ronaldo, was present at the selection of Zabivaka. Ronaldo introduced Brazil’s mascot in 2014 and the occasion revived fond memories for him. “Fuleco was a great success in Brazil, my kids loved him. And the grown-ups too. It is incredible how time flies and here we are introducing the mascot for 2018,” said the former player who scored 15 times in World Cup matches. “Mascots are great ambassadors for promoting the event and bring so much joy to the stadiums. I can see it happening already in Russia with Zabivaka, just by seeing him on stage tonight. He will surely be remembered for a very long time by football fans all over the world.”
“Eighteen months after kicking-off this project, we are extremely happy that the 2018 mascot is the result of a team effort where the Russian people demonstrated their creative flair and their strong commitment to putting on a successful World Cup.”
“Our mascot is tasked with inspiring supporters, getting the wider population involved in football and inviting them to the stadiums in order to experience memorable and positive emotions. Millions of Russian football fans took part in the vote and this means Zabivaka will do a worthy job representing our country around the world.”
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2018 FIFA World Cup
Optus Sport, the only place to watch all 64 games. Live or on-demand. 9:00 pm
From Russia with Love - Prime Time Show
Countdown to Kick-Off - Preview Show
Red Square: Live - Daily Wrap
Group B Morocco
Round 16, E–H M 53
Quarter-Finals M 57
3rd Place M 63
20 STARWEEKLY WEEKLY \ FOOTBALL MADNATION
Added Time: Live - Post Game Show
Round 16, A–D
Final 1:00am, 16/7
All times AEST, and show times will vary. Check local guides and optus.com.au/fifaworldcup closer to the event for any changes.
Group E Samara
Group F Moscow
Mexico Korea Republic
Group G Sochi
Group H Colombia
Colombia Poland Colombia YESR0004 A2 2-fold 1423837/18P50 (05/18)
Left: Jason Calleja, Katerina and their sons. Below: Benjamin with Socceroo Mark Milligan.
A dyed-in-the-wool soccer fan since childhood, Jason Calleja spent his early years playing as a junior with Sunshine George Cross Football Club. But it wasn’t until 2006 that he experienced his first World Cup, writes Carole Levy. The year before the 2006 tournament in Germany, Jason and wife Katerina – who watched football in her childhood with her Dad – decided to hook up with football-mad mutual friends who were members of the Green & Gold Army that supports the Socceroos, Matildas and other national teams. “So Katerina and I went to Germany where we were in the stadium to see Tim Cahill score a double and save us against Japan,” Jason said. “Cahill is a big-occasion player and I’ll never forget seeing his freak volley against the Netherlands in Brazil in 2014. “In 2010, Katerina and I joined Green & Gold Army members from all backgrounds and age groups – from kids to grandparents – to watch the World Cup
matches in South Africa. “It was such a well-planned trip. We all looked out for each other and had nothing to organise except enjoy the experience. We also felt very safe in a country that can sometimes be volatile.” It wasn’t just seeing the matches that won praise from Jason and Katerina. “Part of the trip included a visit to a Red Cross centre in Soweto,” Jason said. “We saw smiling kids playing football without shoes, but so skilful. It’s obviously a huge part of their lives. That year, the GGArmy raised $20,000 for the community and donated food, gloves, beanies and scarves. It was very touching and a real eye-opener. Unmissable.”
Jason, again as a GGArmy member, went to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. “I saw some great matches with people who are now lifelong friends,” he said. “A real highlight was being taken out to a poorer part of Curitiba, to a school which we repainted and repaired. The kids were so happy and loved having a kick with us on a futsal court – it was really uplifting. “It was also great to see iconic places like Copacabana beach and Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio – things I thought I’d only ever see on TV.” This year, Burnside Heights family man Jason is taking his son Benjamin, 7, with him to Russia, leaving two-year-old Hudson at home with Katerina.
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I saw some great matches with people who are now lifelong friends - Jason Calleja
“We’ll be away for 10 days with the GGArmy and it will be an experience I hope Benjamin never forgets,” Jason said. “He’s already a big football fan and has started playing with my old club; he follows the same teams that I do – Socceroos, Arsenal and Melbourne Victory. His favourite player is Mark Milligan – we hope we get to see him take on some of the best players in the world in Russia.” Jason said that six months ago he would have rated Australia’s chances higher, but with a new coach on board, the team may not be ready yet. “If we can make it out of Kazan with something respectable against France, then we’ll have a better chance to get a result against Denmark at Samara Stadium,” he said.
STARWEEKLY \ FOOTBALL MADNATION 23
Australia is one of four countries that will not have referees at this year’s World Cup despite the A-League having adopted video assistant referee (VAR) technology. Others that missed out, despite adopting VAR in their domestic leagues, are Belgium, Portugal and South Korea. FIFA states that selected World Cup officials will be fully trained in VAR.
How were the 36 referees (and 63 assistants) selected? Representing 46 different countries, referees were selected based on their skills and personality, as well as their level of understanding of soccer and ability to read both the game and its tactics.
How are referees prepared for a World Cup? In the past three years, preparatory seminars took place for referees and assistant referees, focusing on fair play, protecting players and the image of the game, as well as consistency and uniformity.
ASIAN FOOTBALL CONFEDERATION (AFC) KSA - AL MIRDASI Fahad IRN - FAGHANI Alireza UZB - IRMATOV Ravshan
UAE - MOHAMED Mohammed Abdulla JPN - SATO Ryuji BHR - SHUKRALLA Nawaf Abdulla
CONFEDERATION OF AFRICAN FOOTBALL (CAF) ALG - ABID CHAREF Mehdi SEN - DIEDHIOU Malang GAM - GASSAMA Bakary Papa
EGY - GRISHA Ghead ZAM - SIKAZWE Janny ETH - TESSEMA WEYESA Bamlak
CONFEDERATION OF NORTH, CENTRAL AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL (CONCACAF)
Selected officials attended a two-week seminar in the second half of April at the technical centre of the Italian Football Association in Coverciano, Italy. The officials, divided into two groups, also included VAR candidates.
SLV - AGUILAR Joel USA - GEIGER Mark W USA - MARRUFO Jair
What did the selection process take into account?
SOUTH AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFEDERATION (CONMEBOL)
The selection process assessed the candidate’s VAR experience in domestic leagues, FIFA competitions and FIFA refereeing seminars since the beginning of the VAR project in 2016.
CHI - BASCUÑAN Julio PAR - CACERES Enrique URU - CUNHA Andres
What happens in the period immediately leading up to the tournament? Up until the World Cup begins, the selected referees, assistant referees and VAR officials will be monitored and supported by FIFA Refereeing on an individual basis to ensure they are fully prepared. Ten days out, all match officials take part in a final preparatory seminar at the match official headquarters in Moscow. They will operate in a variety of roles – as referees, assistant referees, fourth officials, reserve assistant referees and video match officials.
CRC - MONTERO Ricardo PAN - PITTI John MEX - RAMOS PALAZUELOS Cesar Arturo ARG - PITANA Nestor BRA - RICCI Sandro COL - ROLDAN Wilmar
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Steve Larkin takes a look at Australia’s World Cup squad DANIEL ARZANI Age: 19. Club: Melbourne City (Australia). Position: Forward. Caps: 0. Goals: 0. The A-League’s young footballer of the year has dazzling skills and innate goal-scoring sense. AZIZ BEHICH Age: 27. Club: Bursaspor (Turkey). Position: Defender. Caps: 21. Goals: 2. Left-back with a happy knack of drifting forward, solidified his spot during the qualification campaign. JOSHUA BRILLANTE Age: 25. Club: Sydney FC (Australia). Position: Defender. Caps: 5. Goals: 0. Sydney’s influential commander from central midfield, who can also cover at right-back if required. TIM CAHILL Age: 38. Millwall FC (England). Position: Forward. Caps: 105. Goals: 50. Among the nation’s greatest-ever sportsmen, could become the fourth man to score at four consecutive World Cups. MILOS DEGENEK Age: 24. Club: Yokohama F. Marinos (Japan). Position: Defender. Caps: 17. Goals: 0. Contender for right-back but, tough and uncompromising, also adept in a central defensive post. JACKSON IRVINE Age: 25. Club: Hull City (England). Position: Midfielder. Caps: 17. Goals: 2. Smooth-moving, looms as a solid bench option given the squeeze for starting midfield spots. MILE JEDINAK Age: 33. Club: Aston Villa FC (England). Position: Midfielder. Caps: 75. Goals: 18. Stoic captain as a holding midfielder but also used in defence at Aston Villa. BRAD JONES Age: 36. Club: Feyenoord Rotterdam (Netherlands). Position: Goalkeeper. Caps: 5. Goals: 0. Recalled after a four-year absence, withdrew from Australia’s 2010 World Cup squad when his son was diagnosed with leukaemia. TOMI JURIC Age: 26. Club: FC Luzern (Switzerland). Position: Forward. Caps: 34. Goals: 8. 26 STARWEEKLY \ FOOTBALL MADNATION
Strong striker who established himself as the frontman in attack during the qualification campaign. MATTHEW JURMAN Age: 28. Club: Suwon Samsung Bluewings (Korea Republic). Position: Defender. Caps: 4. Goals: 0. Versatile defender who moved to South Korea to press his claims as a starting centre-back.
The winger caught the eye of the new coach in the A-League, then moved to Japan. DIMITRI PETRATOS Age: 25. Club: Newcastle Jets (Australia). Position: Forward. Caps: 1. Goals: 0. Attacking midfielder rewarded for a stellar domestic season, facing a scrap to make the final cut.
FRAN KARACIC Age: 21. Club: NK Lokomotiva (Croatia). Position: Defender. Caps: 0. Goals: 0. Croatian-born and hasn’t set foot in Australia, yet a contender for the problematic right-back position.
JOSH RISDON Age: 25. Club: Western Sydney Wanderers (Australia). Position: Defender. Caps: 6. Goals: 0. Another candidate for the right-back role, renowned for his fitness and speed.
ROBBIE KRUSE Age: 29. Club: VfL Bochum (Germany). Position: Midfielder. Caps: 62. Goals: 5. Attacking midfielder with dash and dare, often a whipping boy of fans expecting more from his talent.
TOM ROGIC Age: 25. Club: Celtic FC (Scotland). Position: Midfielder. Caps: 35. Goals: 0. The lanky midfielder possesses a genuine touch of magic and a lethal left-foot strike.
MATHEW LECKIE Age: 27. Club: Hertha BSC (Germany). Position: Forward. Caps: 51. Goals: 6. Bustling and speedy, has impressed in the Bundesliga and is a key cog in Australia’s starting line-up.
NIKITA RUKAVYTSYA Age: 30. Club: Maccabi Haifa FC (Israel). Position: Forward. Caps: 18. Goals: 1. Back in the selection frame after making two appearances off the bench at the 2010 World Cup.
MASSIMO LUONGO Age: 25. Club: Queens Park Rangers FC (England). Position: Midfielder. Caps: 34. Goals: 5. Classy customer continuing to blossom after being player of the tournament in the 2015 Asian Cup.
MATHEW RYAN Age: 26. Club: Brighton & Hove Albion FC (England). Position: Goalkeeper. Caps: 42. Goals: 0. First-choice shot-stopper since the 2014 World Cup, his stocks continue to rise in the EPL.
JAMES MEREDITH Age: 30. Club: Millwall FC (England). Position: Defender. Caps: 2. Goals: 0. Experienced and versatile defender who hasn’t featured for his country since late in 2015. MARK MILLIGAN Age: 32. Club: Al Ahli SC (Saudi Arabia). Position: Midfielder. Caps: 66. Goals: 6. Competitive leader, made his name in midfield but has been cast into defensive roles by necessity. AARON MOOY Age: 27. Club: Huddersfield Town (England). Position: Midfielder. Caps: 32. Goals: 5. A linchpin in midfield, can play holding or attacking roles and has upper-class foot skills. ANDREW NABBOUT Age: 25. Club: Urawa Red Diamonds (Japan). Position: Forward. Caps: 2. Goals: 0.
TRENT SAINSBURY Age: 26. Club: Grasshopper Club Zurich (Switzerland). Position: Defender. Caps: 33. Goals: 3. Has made a centre-back posting his own with a string of composed displays. JAMES TROISI Age: 29. Club: Melbourne Victory (Australia). Position: Midfielder. Caps: 37. Goals: 5. Potential game breaker who shines in the A-League, covets meaningful midfield minutes for his country. DANIEL VUKOVIC Age: 33. Club: KRC Genk (Belgium). Position: Goalkeeper. Caps: 1. Goals: 0. Moved to Belgium after more than a decade of distinguished domestic seasons, fighting for a spot as third goalkeeper.
Australiaâ€™s Mile Jedinak scores against Honduras during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Intercontinental play-off match. (AAP Image/Brendan Esposito)
STARWEEKLY \ FOOTBALL MADNATION 27
Don’t blow away your licence
This means that your Victorian licence will get cancelled for a minimum of three months and onerous conditions apply, such a requirement stated on your driving licence of a zero blood alcohol reading. You will need to complete a compulsory drink driver behaviour change program and also have an alcohol interlock installed to any vehicle you drive for at least six months, once re-licensed. Chairperson of RoadSafe Westgate Jim Giddings said his road safety group is committed to supporting and conducting free road safety information session on drug and drink driving, such as “Looking After Our Mates” (LAOM). These sessions are delivered by fully trained and accredited facilitators approved by VicRoads. The enjoyable, interactive one-hour sessions address: • Drug and drink driving as road safety issues • Effects of drugs and alcohol on the body and on performance • Laws regarding drug and drink driving • Calculating BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentrations) • Strategies that can be used to avoid drug/drink driving.
“The main message is if you’re going to drink, don’t drive; if you’re going to drive, don’t drink,” Mr Giddings continued. “And always look after your mates.” VicRoads-approved facilitator Mr Alan Nguyen said the aim of the program is to raise awareness of the effects of alcohol and drugs. “LAOM can be delivered to a range of audiences,” said Mr Nguyen, “and is suitable for Year 12 students, but can be tailored to suit any business, organisations, sporting clubs, youth groups, community groups and workplaces.” “These sessions explore a range of drink and drug driving road safety issues that are relevant to young people,” Mr Nguyen said. The LAOM programs are free and address such issues as the definition of a mate; where mates come into play in social situations; the effects of alcohol and drugs on the human body; the police perspective on the effects of alcohol and drugs on social environments and society in general. The program also explains what interventions currently exist to keep the road toll low, booze and drug buses, breathalysers, seat belts, the definition of standard drinks and the role that sporting clubs and schools can play in raising awareness of drugs and alcohol and their effects. The program touches on the programs and systems that encourage ongoing
Fit 2 Drive Peta Simpson 0438 677 898 Looking After Our Mates Alan Nguyen 0433 829 000
RoadSafe Westgate congratulates secondary schools and sporting clubs who participate in these road safety programs for their enduring and strong commitment to road safety in their local community.
Councils of Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong, Melton and Wyndham. The road safety group receives program funding from VicRoads Community Road Safety Grants.
For further information and bookings contact Alan Nguyen, phone 0433 829 000 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. RoadSafe Westgate advocates for road safety in the west of Melbourne. Members of RoadSafe Westgate include the City
A GAME FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THESE PROGRAMS PLEASE CONTACT
community education. Young drivers and potential young drivers have been made aware of the issues road safety, drink and drug driving and looking after your mates through the Looking After Our Mates (LAOM) sessions conducted each year.
Tougher driving penalties now apply. If you get caught driving over .05 you’ll lose your licence, need to complete a compulsory Drink Driver Program and get an alcohol interlock installed on re-licensing.
ZERO TOLLS SHOULD BE YOUR GOAL
RoadSafe Westgate in association with the Hobson Bay, Maribyrnong, Melton and Wyndham Municipal Councils supports young drivers and young road users by supporting best practise programs such as Fit to Drive (F2D) and Looking After Our Mates (LAOM)
By Simon Evans Football’s world governing body FIFA has floated the idea of a mini World Cup to be played every two years. FIFA president Gianni Infantino has proposed staging what would effectively be a mini-World Cup, featuring eight international teams, every two years in addition to the traditional event. The tournament, known as the “Final 8”, would be the climax of a proposed global Nations League competition, part of an ambitious plan to reform international football, which FIFA believes could be worth $US25 billion in a 12year cycle. In a letter seen by Reuters, Infantino, who has already overseen the enlargement of the existing World Cup from 32 to 48 teams starting in 2026, suggested that the new tournament would take place every October and/or November of every odd year starting from 2021. He said that a “solid and serious” group of investors were willing to spend $25 billion on the competition and a revamped version of the Club World Cup, which would also start in 2021 with 24 teams. The Confederations Cup, currently staged every four years in a year before the World Cup, would be abolished.
The letter did not clearly indicate how many slots would be allocated to each region. The new competition would run parallel to existing international tournaments such as the European Championship, Copa America, and African Nations Cup, plus the World Cup qualifying stages. FIFA could not immediately be reached for comment. European soccer body UEFA and its counterpart for North and Central America and the Caribbean, CONCACAF, have already set up Nations League contests in their own continents. In both cases, the competitions involve all the national teams in their respective regions who are divided into divisions based on their rankings. There is promotion and relegation between the divisions, as in conventional domestic club leagues. UEFA’s inaugural competition will begin in September this year. Infantino suggested that similar intercontinental mini-tournaments to the Final 8 could also be organised for the top teams in the lower divisions. - Reuters
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FIFA World Cup trophy 2018 FIFA WORLD CUP RUSSIA Unlike the previous Jules Rimet Cup, which was awarded to Brazil after winning three World Cups, the current World Cup trophy remains in FIFA’s possession. A replica is awarded to the three-time winners instead. 1930-1970 FIFA commissions French sculptor Abel Lafleur to design the first World Cup trophy. It was later named the Jules Rimet Cup in 1946 in honour of the founding father of the FIFA World Cup.
1970 Brazil takes home the Jules Rimet Cup after winning the World Cup three times, as stated by FIFA at the time. In 1983 the trophy is stolen in Rio de Janeiro, never to be seen again.
1939-1945 The trophy is kept hidden in a box under a bed in Italy during World War II. Two World Cup tournaments are cancelled. MATERIAL: Gold-plated sterling silver WEIGHT: 3.8 kg | HEIGHT: 35 cm
1974-present FIFA commissions Italian artist Silvio Gazzaniga to design the new trophy. MATERIAL: 18-carat gold and malachite WEIGHT: 6.175 kg HEIGHT: 36.5 cm
PREVIOUS WORLD CUP WINNERS Only Latin American and European teams have ever won the World Cup since the tournament began in 1930. Brazil has won it five times, followed by Germany and Italy who have won the game four times each. Year: 1930 Host country: Uruguay Winner: URUGUAY
1934 Italy ITALY
1938 France ITALY
1950 Brazil URUGUAY
1958 Sweden BRAZIL
1954 Switzerland WEST GERMANY
1962 Chile BRAZIL
1970 Mexico BRAZIL
1966 England ENGLAND
1978 Argentina ARGENTINA
1974 West Germany WEST GERMANY
1986 Mexico ARGENTINA
1982 Spain ITALY
1994 U.S.A. BRAZIL
1990 Italy WEST GERMANY
2002 Japan/S. Korea BRAZIL
1998 France FRANCE
2006 2010 Germany S. Africa ITALY SPAIN
2014 Brazil GERMANY
Sources: Reuters; FIFA. Staff, 24/04/2018
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The stadium story By Carole Levy (iStock)
LKUZHNIKI STADIUM (Main photo)
Capacity: 80,000 Hosts four matches, plus round 16, July 1; semi-final, July 11; and final, July 15 The most famous of Russia’s stadiums, Lkuzhniki was b 000 games at club and international level and offers fine city views and a huge statue of Lenin at the front entrance (iStock)
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ST PETERSBURG STADIUM Capacity: 64,287 Hosts four matches, plus round 16, July 3; semi-final, July 10; third place play-off, July 14 The views of the Gulf of Finland are breathtaking from St Petersburg Stadium’s steep seating and the “spaceship” design is unmistakable. White-knuckle rollercoasters are in a vast park on the ground’s approach.
SAMARA ARENA Capacity: 44,807 Hosts four matches, plus round 16, July 2; quarter-final, July 7 Samara Arena has a 65-metre-high glass dome which is spectacular when lit at night. The city, once a hub of the Soviet space program, sits on the confluence of Samara and Volga rivers.
FISHT STADIUM Capacity: 47,659 Hosts five matches, plus quarter-final on July 7 Venue for 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, Fisht Stadium takes in spectacular views of Krasnaya Polyana mountains to the north and Black Sea to the south. It was completed in 2013.
ROSTOV ARENA Capacity: 45,145 Hosts four matches, plus round 16 on July 2 On the banks of River Don, this recently completed stadium has a striking roof design that imitates the meanderings of the river, as well as pretty views of the city’s south-western area.
SPARTAK STADIUM Capacity: 45,360 Hosts four matches, plus round 16 on July 3 Permanent home of Spartak Moscow, the stadium has a statue of Thracian gladiator Spartacus at the front of the stadium – certain to be an Instagram star.
VOLGOGRAD ARENA Capacity: 45,568 Hosts four matches Once the site of the classic Soviet architecture of Central Stadium, Volgograd Arena has a new facade design meant to resemble basketwork. It was the scene of Volgograd’s goalless 1995 UEFA Cup draw that eliminated Manchester United.
MORDOVIA ARENA Capacity: 44,442 Hosts four matches Near a new airport, Mordovia Arena has a brightly coloured facade meant to echo the rich palette of the region’s arts and crafts.
KAZAN ARENA Capacity: 45,379 Hosts five matches, plus quarter-final on July 6 Kazan is considered Russia’s sporting capital and the stadium here is stylish and modern, designed by the architects behind Wembley and Emirates stadiums. North-east of the city centre, it features the world’s biggest outdoor hi-def screen.
NIZHNY NOVGOROD STADIUM Capacity: 44,899 Hosts four matches, plus round 16, July 1; and quarter-final, July 6 Newly completed, Nizhny Novgorod Stadium sits by the confluence of Volga and Oka rivers. One of the most striking World Cup stadiums, it has views over the 500-year-old Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin.
EKATERINBURG ARENA Capacity: 35,696 Hosts four matches Dating back to 1957, Ekaterinburg Arena has been renovated but retains its old facade – which is a work of art. It’s the long-term home of Soviet league stalwart side Uralmash, now FC Ural.
KALININGRAD STADIUM Capacity: 35,212 Hosts four matches This impressive and brand new stadium, with a design concept based on Allianz Arena in Munich, sits on Oktyabrsky Island, east of the city centre. Its scenic setting was once virtually a wilderness.
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FIFA remains confident the video assistant referee will prevent World Cup controversies, despite problems with the system in testing across the globe. Frozen screens, bendy offside lines and other technical glitches have made the video assistant referee (VAR) system a frequent target of derision as the World Cup approaches. Two years of testing before the June 15 opening game have left Johannes Holzmueller, the head of FIFA’s technology innovation department, “sweating ... because we were unsure if everything works perfectly”. “However, now that we go into the World Cup we are quite sure that we will have the best set-up that is possible at the moment.” But he refused to say the network of digitally-enhanced cameras
overseen by experienced assistant referees would be fool-proof in time for the World Cup that kicks off in Moscow. “It is technology; it can fail,” Holzmueller said at a media conference. Few doubt that, after several controversial incidents recently. In May, a technical glitch allowed an offside goal to stand, deciding the A-League championship. “Cameras were frozen. The feeds were no longer available. They tried the best in that situation but could not find one angle,” Holzmueller said. “If they do not have all the feeds or the specific angle to say ‘hey, I am 100 per cent sure, 100 per cent convinced I would go for a clear offside’.
“If you cannot have that as a VAR, then of course you cannot tell the referee on the pitch. In this case it was a clear technology failure. We learned a lot from that.” Last month in the Bundesliga, Mainz were awarded a penalty during half-time after their opponents had already left the pitch. In Belgium last month, the Club Brugge game against Anderlecht started more than 15 minutes late because the VAR system was not ready. In Italy in March, Lazio took issue with a number of decisions, prompting about 200 fans to protest outside the national football federation. Holzmueller said that, in another incident, the digital line on the screen to decide offside was bendy rather than straight.
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Melbourne Victory players celebrate their win over the Newcastle Jets in the A-League Grand Final. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)
Live and learn and always have a back-up, said Massimo Busacca, director of refereeing at soccer’s ruling body FIFA. “I say always we must be ready for a Plan B. Who is ready for Plan A only is not the top. Who is not expecting the unexpected cannot be top level,” Busacca said, suggesting technology must always be subservient to the referee. “Only one decision at the next World Cup, only one, is enough to say: VAR was good to be introduced. The aim is not to achieve 100 per cent calls for all decisions, only to avoid scandal.” - AAP
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Tim Cahill (Photo: AAP Image/David Moir)
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I’ll be leaving no stone unturned because football is my life. – Tim Cahill
By Emma Kemp Tim Cahill says he’s in top physical nick and confident he can still make an impact at the highest level in a fourth World Cup. He insists there was no sentimentality behind his selection in Australia’s squad, and he will be “driving even harder” to book his spot at a fourth World Cup in Russia. The 38-year-old Socceroos stalwart defied his age and lack of club game time for Millwall to make the second cut in Bert van Marwijk’s extended squad ahead of in-form Hibernian striker Jamie Maclaren. It came a week after van Marwijk labelled Cahill “a special case” and subtly intimated the country’s all-time leading scorer would be named in his final group come June 3. The other hint came with the announcement that a number of Caltex stores will be renamed Cahilltex in line with the World Cup. But the man himself held no faith in anything other than his own ability, which he was confident could still make an impact at the
highest level. “I’ve probably spoken once to van Marwijk and that was in the last camp about my fitness in Norway,” Cahill told Macquarie Radio. “Obviously I’m in great nick because I pride myself on professionalism and being in the top 20 per cent fitness-wise.
Van Marwijk’s mandate is based strictly on results, with the Dutchman’s main aim to get the Socceroos out of a World Cup group containing France, Denmark and Peru. The 2010 World Cup finalist has spoken of his penchant for “fast football” but also of his desire to win using another approach if required.
“There is no real individual connections for players because they have to come in such a short space of time and produce at a World Cup for Australia ... they don’t have time to be sentimental with players and do them favours.
Cahill felt that was the biggest difference between van Marwijk and his predecessor Ange Postecoglou.
“And I totally agree with that ... at 38 years old I’m very proud of where I am as part of the 26 but I’m going to be driving even harder now to be part of the 23.
“With Ange it was an amazing cycle – we won the Asian Cup, qualified for a World Cup ... and Bert has been there before.
“I don’t feel any player has a given right – regardless of what you’ve done in your past – to think they’ve got that seat on the plane to Russia.
“The biggest thing you’ll see with Bert van Marwijk is he plays to situation ... not every game is the same,” he said.
“The different styles, I feel will be that we adapt to any situation and not be afraid to go at teams or also be able to keep a result and be compact.” - AAP
“I’ll be leaving no stone unturned because football is my life.”
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(The Yomiuri Shimbun via APP Images)
By Steve Larkin
What: FIFA World Cup When: June 14 to July 15 Where: Russia (12 stadiums in 11 cities) Most World Cup wins: Five - Brazil Most World Cup goals: 16 - Miroslav Klose, Germany Most goals at a single tournament: 13 - Just Fontaine, France, 1958 ● First played in 1930 in Uruguay, this is the 21st edition of the tournament ● Of 32 countries competing in Russia, only Iceland and Panama are debut nations ● Since and including 1986, Cup winners have always topped their group ● ● ● ● ● ●
● Host nations have reached the knockout phase at every World Cup except South Africa in 2010 ● The last hosts to win the World Cup were France in 1998 ● The 20 World Cups have been won by nations from Europe (11) or South America (nine) ● Germany is seeking to become the first nation to win consecutive Cups since Brazil (1962, 1958) ● The past two defending champions have been knocked out in the group stage (Italy 2010, Spain 2014) ● Mexico has qualified for the Cup the most times (16) without winning it ● All 20 World Cups have been won by a coach with the same nationality as the triumphant team - AAP
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Star Weekly Football MadNation 2018