Wednesday 27 April 2016

Leicester City - 1 win away

Comment courtesy of OldLutonian on the Guardian.

"When Leicester had 39 points at the mid-point of the season Ranieri kind-of-jokingly said he was looking for just a little better, 40 points from the second half. As it turns out, that would be the exactly right points required to win it as it stands. Prophet."

Have people spoken too soon? Or is the rest history?

All eyes turn to Old Trafford then, where the odds, at least according to the bookmakers, favour Manchester United.

Andre Lim

Sunday 17 April 2016

The History of the UEFA Champions League

An interesting DVD that leaves a lot to be desired.

Time: 110 minutes

Price: $10 to $30. Average is about $18.

Year: Up-to-date as at 2001. Seems to be published in 2004.

The History of the UEFA Champions League provides what could best be described as a cursory glance of the competition since its inception in 1955 when it was known as the European Champion Clubs' Cup.

Household icons like Gerd MΓΌller, Van Basten, Platini, Reichardt, Di Stefano, Raul, Del Piero, Figo, Giggs, Scholes, Mcmanaman, Shevchenko and Rivaldo feature fairly prominently.

Highlights of many important moments in the history of the competition are also readily on hand.


The DVD is split into 5 parts by my count:
  • History: This part gives a broad brush overview of the tournament since the very first one in 1955 where Real Madrid beat Stade de Reims to the inaugural title. The section is certainly interesting but sometimes a bit hard to follow given the pace in which we are shown landmark events, especially to a newcomer like myself. Nonetheless perhaps to the average football historian or buff, going through actual footage of the matches played will perhaps make for some pleasant viewing. Such footage includes the advent of the Italian clubs in AC Milan and Inter and the rise of the Dutch clubs in Ajax and Feyenoord.

The impressive early legacy of Real Madrid and Benfica (enter Eusebio!) is also covered. Viewers are reminded of Barcelona's early struggles to obtain the European crown, as well as the heydays of Nottingham Forest, Ajax, Feyenoord, Bayern Munich, PSV Eindhoven, Aston Villa -- many of these names are certainly known today but are probably not associated with 'greatness' (with the exception of Bayern of course).

  • "Best Clubs": Featuring Marseille, Milan, Ajax, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Barcelona.

  • All finals from 1993 to 2000.
  • "Best Players" (Featuring Litmanen, Del Piero, Shevchenko and Raul)
  • The 2000/2001 season, which is only shown from the Quarter Finals onwards.

Negative Aspects

The DVD is almost entirely 'voice-overed', something I quite detest as I think live sound, footage and commentary is always the best. The elevator music played in the background is also highly objectionable but perhaps bearable.

The 2000/2001 season segment of the DVD is probably the low point of this DVD, with very limited highlights of matches and too many voice-overs rather than live commentary.

There is also a bit of overlap in the sections "Best Clubs" and "Finals from 1993 to 2000" as the former section inevitably shows footage from the final of that year to demonstrate the strength of a certain club.

For the Best Clubs section, the highlights tend to be a bit one-sided in the sense that most of the footage seems to concentrate on the scoring of goals only for that particular club being covered, which is somewhat understandable.

Positive Aspects

However, from an educational perspective, I did enjoy the highlights reel in the Finals from 1993 to 2000 and the Best Players section. In the latter part, the commentators will occasionally give you some interesting or random facts, such as, for example, that Jari Litmanen (of Ajax and Finnish Hall-of-fame status) used to play for Finland in Ice Hockey.

The early history section was a bit hard to follow but was nonetheless interesting to see. It taught me many things. For example, although Barcelona may be dominant in recent years, for much of the earliest period of the European Cup Real Madrid were dominating the show as Barcelona struggled to get to its first title.

Fans of 'big clubs' will no doubt enjoy seeing the brief segments on their particular club's history - in Manchester United's case, for example, the 1999 Final against Bayern Munich is shown and commented on at least two occasions, and highlights from Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, Keane, Yorke and Cole over the years feature prominently.

As mentioned above, a general overview of the glory days of clubs gone past is also readily proffered.


I think this is a decent DVD to have - however the cursory presentation of the early history of the competition as well as its voice-overs and unnecessary music certainly leave a lot to be desired. The coverage of the 2000/2001 season is also rather disappointing.

All-in-all though, I suppose this DVD will do for those who are interested in the history of the competition, particularly when one has regard to its coverage of the finals from 1993 to 2000 as well as its segment on Best Players.

~6.5 out of 10

Andre Lim

Tuesday 12 April 2016

AFC WCQ 2018 Group B Timetable

"If you want to make it to such a prestigious tournament, you've got to beat the best. I'm excited...This is what football is all about. We've done so well in the Asian Cup by winning it — this is where it's going to separate the men from the boys. We're ready for it. We want to play the best."
- Tim Cahill 

First matches: Home to Iraq on 1 September 2016 and Away to UAE on 6 September 2016.

Courtesy of Football Australia:

Match Day 1 - HOME - Thursday, 01 Sep 16 - Australia v Iraq
Match Day 2 - AWAY - Tuesday, 06 Sep 16 - UAE v Australia
Match Day 3 - AWAY - Thursday, 06 Oct 16 - Saudia Arabia v Australia
Match Day 4 - HOME - Tuesday, 11 Oct 16 - Australia v Japan
Match Day 5 - AWAY - Tuesday, 15 Nov 16 - Thailand v Australia
Match Day 6 - AWAY - Thursday, 23 Mar 17 - Iraq v Australia
Match Day 7 - HOME - Tuesday, 28 Mar 17 - Australia v UAE
Match Day 8 - HOME - Thursday, 08 Jun 17 - Australia v Saudia Arabia
Match Day 9 - AWAY - Thursday, 31 Aug 17 - Japan v Australia
Match Day 10 - HOME - Tuesday, 05 Sep 17 - Australia v Thailand

Andre Lim

2018 FIFA World Cup Qualification - Third Round Groups are out!

I'd say that Group B is certainly the tougher group.

If China and UAE swapped positions, I think the groups would be more balanced.

The fact that Saudi Arabia and UAE are in the same group makes things crazy. 

The substantial number of away trips to the Middle East will certainly be a major talking point and consideration.

That being said, sometimes you do want other teams to be competitive so that they can take points off your opponents.

In a weird way I kind of liked how we drew Japan because it will add to the rivalry between the two nations.

It will be interesting to see what happens...

I had previously thought Iraq was weaker than Qatar but perhaps I had momentarily forgotten their history over the years. Certainly they have proven to be strong opponents over the years.

Andre Lim

Friday 8 April 2016

2018 World Cup Qualifying Asia - April Seedings released

So the April rankings have been released, and the Pots are sealed!

One interesting thing to note is that Australia is 100% guaranteed an away trip to the Middle East -- although no games are played in Iraq, it appears that Iraq uses Tehran as a substitute homeground.

Is Iran really that strong?

Another interesting point is that not everyone may agree that Iran is the strongest contender here - thus Australia's seeding into Pot 1 is sort of "wasted". Older Socceroos supporters will point to that tragic night in November 1997 where Iran came from 0-2 down in the second leg in Melbourne to win on away goals overall (3-3) as evidence that Iran are not to be trifled with.

But younger Socceroos fans somehow have this expectation or fear that South Korea and Japan are the deadlier prospects and should be avoided over Iran - especially given relatively recent events and our rivalry with them over the years. As my friend Bob put it, South Korea and Japan just seem to be the more consistent opponents.

I tend to favour the latter view, although I would by no means discount Iran. They certainly gave South Korea and Uzbekistan a tough time in the 2014 Qualifiers. Indeed, Iran boasts a fine World Cup qualification pedigree and have the experience to do it again.

At the time of writing, according to the World Elo Rankings, South Korea is ranked 19th; Japan is 25th; Iran is 34th and Australia is 37th.

Doesn't that sound ominous?

South Korea or Japan?

In my previous post I said Japan were tougher opponents than South Korea. I am not so sure anymore.

I have this preconceived idea that Japan are to be feared but, on their good day, South Korea could easily take at least 4 points over both home and away legs against Australia.

Let us not forget that Australia did not beat South Korea at the 2015 Asian Cup in Normal Time.

How about the others?

I want China and Thailand in our group, just for the kick of it.

Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are rather tough opponents and playing away to them will be a tricky task.

Whatever the outcome of the draw, this qualification process will not be easy.

The Group of Death is potentially Australia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Thailand.

What does everyone else think?

Andre Lim

Monday 4 April 2016

All the Goals of World Cup '98

Another DVD that delivers on its promise - all 171 goals of the 1998 FIFA World Cup.

Run time: 52 minutes!!!

Price: $20 including shipping - although if you have a region free DVD player you can get it for much cheaper. Region 4 and 'All Regions' versions of this DVD are hard to find. Region 2 appears to be quite common.

Bit pricey for a DVD less than one hour long.

All the Goals of World Cup '98 attempts to show 171 goals in 52 minutes.

That is obviously quite ambitious!!!!

Although I did not count all the goals as I watched this, the DVD did seem to show all the goals from each match by group stage and then by the knockout stages.

It follows that 0-0 draws and penalty shootouts are NOT included, although I question the latter decision as the 2006 edition of the All Goals DVD includes penalty shootouts.

Compromised quality?

As you might expect, cramming so much content into such a short space of time would undoubtedly result in a compromised experience.

For example, I can't recall ANY footage in the leadup to any penalty goal being awarded. Penalties are shown only from the moment the penalty is taken. No context as to what happened prior to the penalty being taken is provided. This is one significant downside to the DVD.

Suker penalty.
This guy features a lot.
It's not just penalties though - even goals in open play are somewhat lacking in context, as, with the exception of the better goals, the DVD only shows one or two moments/passes before the goal itself.

The transition between each match is also somewhat hurried, and does not give the viewer a chance to settle or understand what is going on or who is playing (unless one hurries to look at the top right hand corner to see the initials of the teams in the scoreline).

One other issue: To some extent, as with any "All the Goals" DVD, it is a bit of an anticlimax knowing that what you are looking at will result in a goal. Part of the excitement in football is wondering whether a shot will end up at the back of the net. Knowing that someone will succeed, in my opinion, takes a bit away from the excitement of the viewing. That is why I prefer "All the Highlights" DVDs - assuming such highlights include all the goals of course. Close misses are just as important as goals, I think.
Dennis Bergkamp features a few times

Picture quality on this DVD is also not the best by today's standards, but quite good I suppose given that time period.

Good Entertainment for the Football Fan

Nonetheless this DVD does a good job of compiling all the goals into one disc and has much to offer.

For example, it was a pleasure to learn about and look at:
  • Austria specialising in last-minute scoring: In this tournament they scored 1 late goal (all in injury time I think...or at least from the 90 minute mark onwards) in each of 3 different matches.
  • The prowess of Denmark, especially taking it to the Brazilians.
  • Iran beating the USA 2-1, somewhat interesting given the political climate of the 90's.
  • Three penalties in the exotic South Africa v Saudi Arabia match.
  • Beckham scoring only his first goal at a World Cup.
Where did this guy come from?!
Zidane attacks with a header.
  • Zidane!!!
  • Holland making it again to to business end of the tournament...and failing.
  • Seeing new entrants Jamaica, Japan, South Africa and Croatia -- and look how well the latter did! (And realising that Iran, Australia and Tunisia had earlier debuts than these 4 nations!)
  • Some of the old timers such as Luis Enrique, the Laudrup brothers ("whenever Brian Laudrup has scored for Denmark they have never lost" -- comment as at the Nigeria match...), Overmars, Bergkamp, Roberto Baggio, Laurent Blanc, David Suker, Alan Shearer, Wilmots, Vieri, Batistuta, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Bebeto, Henry, Klinsmann, Kluivert, de Boer (the list can go on...)

Commentary and presentation

Apart from the problems mentioned above the presentation and the commentary is somewhat good.

All goalscorers are named, along with the minute they scored. The scoreline is shown on the top right-hand.

Although that being said, I do recall a moment where the commentator said "A dramatic last minute equaliser for Davids!!" when it was actually the winning goal.

More Pictures

 Who is this guy again? He offers a brief introduction to the DVD.

To make up for their lack of explanation as to what is going on in the main feature itself the Special Features shows the scores of each team - a bit unnecessary I think (as not many would look at this when you can just look it up on Wikipedia now)

"Long ball from Frank de Boer...seeking out Dennis Bergkamp...."

Michael Owen in the middle of a crazy run against Argentina.


I think this DVD does the bare minimum expected of an "All Goals" DVD.
I give full credit to the producers for fitting everything in so efficiently in less than an hour.

However, the drawbacks of having reduced footage cannot be ignored.
The DVD could be at least 1.5x longer if more of the leadup to each goal was shown.

Nonetheless this is a decently good DVD and worthy of any football fan's viewing.

Score: 7 out of 10

Andre Lim

Friday 1 April 2016

Super Socceroos: The Shooting Stars

A good DVD to keep...obviously not as a Uruguayan fan.

Run time: About 150+ minutes

Price: $5.85 to $35. I got mine for around $8 including shipping.

Manufacturer: Visual Entertainment Group (Sports Delivered) - - - now they only seem to do AFL DVDs :(

Super Socceroos - the Shooting Stars does all that it promises to do. 

The DVD shows the CONMEBOL-OFC 2nd playoff leg between Uruguay and the Socceroos in Sydney on 16 November 2005 for a (final?) place at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. For those unfamiliar with the qualification process, this is a matchup between 5th place in South America and 1st place in Oceania.

The DVD showcases the match in its entirety as was played live on that day including extra-time, the penalty shootout and post-match celebrations.

Craig Foster and Simon Hill (I think) are the original commentators. Their comments are quite funny because it is so obvious that they are supporting the Aussies.

The quality is not excellent - not in HD - but it will do as a record.

The one negative aspect of my copy, however, is that the last 3-5 minutes is skippy and freezes on me. I am unaware if this is a universal problem but the DVD at the beginning does warn that this could happen... apparently through no fault of the manufacturers... Fortunately (in a sense) the parts that skip relate only to the post match celebrations and interviews.

Good to buy?

Now how do I score a DVD that does what it promises to do? The DVD itself offers nothing remarkable. It just provides us with the match as was seen live by Australians. No editing or special presentation skills were really required of the manufacturer. 

On one hand, as a matter of principle, giving exactly what you promised, is almost always arguably a 10/10.

On the other hand, assigning such a score would say nothing about whether this is, in fact, a good DVD to buy.

In terms of my personal taste, I would give this a score of 6 to 6.5 out of 10. 

The DVD is very long and the 150 minutes of footage is something the average football fan (ie. one who is not Australian biased) would probably want to watch only once. Certainly if you've never seen the entire match, perhaps that is $8 well spent just to watch it once.

That being said, for the Socceroos fan, this DVD is a good keepsake because it shows us all the moments in the tense lead up to the penalty shootout. There is something nice about being able to fast-forward to the specific moment when Schwarzer saves Zalayeta's penalty or when Aloisi puts that one in.


So what I will do now is show you some pictures from the DVD - which are really all moments that Socceroos fans are familiar with.

Bresciano the Spartan.

Viduka's penalty.

Schwarzer's save.

Aloisi looking like Sly Cooper.

And the crazed celebrations begin.


This DVD does as it promised and, really, you couldn't ask for too much more. 

On that basis I don't think assigning a score would be appropriate - I cannot find the right balance between rewarding the DVD for making good on its word versus my opinion as to whether this is a good buy.

N/A out of 10 

(Nonetheless, if I HAD to, perhaps I would wager a 6.6+ out of 10? Where a score of 6.5 means the DVD is decent.)

Andre Lim