Saturday 30 September 2017

Richmond Tigers

Richmond Tigers atm - rampaging and surging, a textbook classic example in sport of a momentum shift.

Andre Lim

Friday 29 September 2017

Syria v Australia - 1st Leg: Quick Facts

Time and Date
Thursday, 5 October 2017
8.30pm Malaysian time (11.30pm AEDT)

Most likely damp and possibly raining. VERY humid and sticky ("hot soup" - "sweatbox"). The temperature will apparently be about 29 degrees to 27 degrees Celsius.

Adapting to the weather will be difficult for our European-based players, who are experiencing autumn weather for their club football.

According to Sportsbet, Australia is expected to win @ $1.70

but perhaps not by much, if at all, according to WeGlobalFootball. They predict that someone will win by a margin of 0.39 goals - ie. It will become a draw.

 What we are up against in Syria
  • Undefeated in Malaysia! Their home away from home.
  • Skyrocketing FIFA ranking from #151 (in 2014) to #75 in the world.
  • Attacking trio in Omar al Soma (#9), Firas Al-Khatib (#10) and Omar Khribin (#7), the last of whom just scored a hat-trick in the Asian Champions League Semi-final for Al-Hilal against Persopolis. Former is in form in the ACL too.
  • Grinding team capable of toughing out a 0-0 draw (as was the case against Iran and South Korea).
  • Underdog 'Cinderella' status - almost the whole world is cheering for them.
  • They have nothing to lose and are playing for the pride of their country.
  • A star veteran, Al Masri, just starting to find his form for the national squad: he made his debut for Syria at the age of 30 (#17, Defender).
  • Conceded just 8 times over 10 matches (6 times over 9 matches not including the last Iran game).

Our squad
New additions:
  • 3 defenders: Behich (left-back), Jurman (centre-back), Risdon (right-back); Craig Goodwin (left winger or wingback) and Rukavytsya (Striker)

Given Risdon's and Ruka's inclusion (the former is a right-back; the latter apparently likes wide attack), there are rumours that Ange is thinking of reverting to a back 4 as above, but I think this is just wishful thinking.

My predicted score: 1-1

Andre Lim

Sunday 24 September 2017

The Complete Book of the Olympics (2012 Edition)

This is probably my favourite book!!

My rating: 10/10 [Admittedly I have not read all of it but I can tell]

Authors: David Wallechinsky and Jaime Loucky

Publisher: Aurum Press

Price: I saw it in a bookstore for about $50, but you can get it second-hand from eBay for AUD$11 to $25.

Pages: 1300 pages

  • Provides interesting background stories of the Olympic champions (and sometimes other competitiors) for the vast majority of Olympic events from 1896 to 2008.
  • Provides as-it-happened summaries of how certain races unfolded, or how matches and events were won for most Olympic events from 1896 to 2008. Will note the intensity and closeness of important match-ups too. Some entries are longer than others.
  • Top 8 finishers, number of competitors and nations featured for all events from 1896 to 2008.
  • Brief outline of how some of the lesser known sports are played or scored.
  • Brief introduction to the Olympics and issues faced by the Olympics.
  • Highly knowledgeable and insightful write-ups for every sport and Olympic event from 1896 to 2008; the context behind the events and the leadup to the events is often examined succinctly. Each event entry usually features refreshing backstories of the athletes, random trivia or fun facts, or even at times goes on to explain what the competitors later achieved and the greater historical significance of certain events. [Eg. Just today I read about how Mohammad Ali (Cassius Clay) stood up for the USA when a Russian journalist asked how it felt to be banned from eating at certain places because he was black; his patriotism was later betrayed when he was refused service at a milkbar. I also enjoyed reading about the fanfare and enthusiasm for the USA's 1992 Dream Team.] 

Index Sample

Here are all the sports covered by The Complete Book of the Olympics (2012 Edition) for Men and Women:

  • Track and Field
  • Archery
  • Badminton
  • Boxing
  • Canoeing
  • Cycling
  • Diving
  • Equestrian
  • Fencing
  • Field Hockey
  • Football (Soccer)
  • Gymnastics 
  • Team Handball
  • Judo
  • Modern Pentathlon
  • Rowing
  • Sailing
  • Shooting
  • Swimming
  • Synchronized Swimming
  • Table Tennis
  • Taekwondo
  • Tennis
  • Triathlon
  • Volleyball
  • Water Polo
  • Weightlifting
  • Freestyle Wrestling
  • Greco-Roman Wrestling
Discontinued sports covered are as follows:

The format of each chapter looks something like this:
What the start of each chapter looks like and some entries
Short Summary 

If you enjoy the Olympics, like interesting and fun facts about athletes, including the challenges faced by each Olympic gold medal winner from 1896 to 2008 (ie. for all team and individual events, including events that were discontinued), this reference book is for you.

For example, I didn't know that Steve Hooker, the pole vaulter, was actually afraid of heights and converted from Aussie Rules Football. He had to get a hypnotist to sort out his fear of heights - he would be too scared to actually vault, often simply running in-between the sticks.

I also didn't know that Cathy Freeman's mother's father was a Syrian who came to Australia to deliver camels; and one of her great-grandfathers came from China in search of gold.

I didn't realise the 2000 badminton men's singles winner, Ji Xinpeng, had to win the gold medal the hard way by defeating the top 3 seeds.....and after winning gold he never won another major tournament. Talk about a one-hit wonder.

Taufik Hidayat - wild child of Indonesia

The book's philosophy appears to be: "If it's worth mentioning, we will mention it."

The 1904 men's marathon is a pretty hilarious read, for example. You can read about it on Wikipedia, but I think will blog on it soon. Hollywood should totally make a movie on it.

My only real issue, if I can even call it that, about this series is that apparently this 2012 edition is the last book that will be produced in the series.

There are apparently no plans to update the book to cover the Olympics from 2012 onwards :(

It would have been great to see detailed write-ups on the recent 2016 games, including, for example, Fiji, Singapore, Tajikistan, Bahrain, Puerto Rico, Kosovo, Jordan, the Independent Olympic Athletes, and Vietnam winning their first-ever gold medals.

As Mr Wallechinsky explains, there is a lot of work involved with covering all Olympic events:
"I would have to finish all the London 2012 stories, and then add in the Rio 2016 stories, where you are talking about more than 600 events.
“I would probably need to work on it for at least one or two hours every single day."
Apparently only the Winter Olympics will be covered and updated from herein on. That book is next on my wishlist, but I'm in no hurry to get it.

I have plenty on my hands right now!!

Andre Lim

Thursday 14 September 2017

Syria v Australia odds

Given that there is now official confirmation (Finally! After the quagmire of all these unofficial reports*) that Syria's home fixture will indeed be held in the Hang Jebat Stadium, Melakka/Malacca, Malaysia,^ I thought we should take a quick look at the odds# for this match.

The road to Russia will not be easy, despite Sportsbet's generous odds in Australia's favour.

For the Malaysian leg, Sportsbet has us at $1.67 for the win and the Qasioun Eagles at $4.50 for the win.

(I didn't spot any odds for the Sydney fixture just yet.)

However, We Global Football suggests the line is a lot closer.

In both legs, it is predicted that the game will be decided by 1 or less goals.

I'm inclined to think that this latter view is about right. Syria will be a tougher, grittier, more enhanced version of Thailand and Iraq. It's important to remember that they were undefeated in their home away from home in Malaysia.

Syria's ability to grind out a draw will be accentuated if rain invades the pitch and/or the pitch is difficult to play on. This is entirely possible given that the monsoon season in Malacca apparently occurs in March to April and October to November.

Of course, the result in the first leg will decide both teams' approach in the second leg.

Australia To Qualify? - Odds

Interestingly, We Global Football had us at the following probabilities to qualify for the World Cup at these stages:
  • Before the Japan match: 91.5% (this was probably on the assumption that JAP v AUS matches frequently resulted in a draw)
  • After the Japan match (before the Thailand match): 79%
  • After the Thailand match but before the Saudi Match: ~68% (100% minus Saudi's chances of winning which was calculated to be 32%)
  • After Saudi Arabia v Japan: 23.77%-24.22%
These statistics are somewhat depressing; they reveal that we blew a big opportunity to qualify automatically by being top 2 in the group.

SportsBet seems a bit more optimistic, giving us $1.75 to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup (roughly a 57% chance). Although 'No' is priced at $2.00, which is not too different.
(The price is $1.18 overall for Australia to go through to the Intercontinental/confederation CONCACAF playoff; Syria at $4.50)

We Global Football suggests that, for the CONCACAF and AFC playoff, the most likely matchup is between Australia and Panama.

Although I think USA v AUS or USA v SYR would look very interesting.

I am actually secretly hoping for an AUS v USA playoff, even though this means we probably will not qualify if that occurred.

We Global Football goes one step further and backs Panama and USA (hence, not Australia) to make it to the World Cup as per the below table.

Update: On Friday, ESPN's Soccer Power Index threw a spanner in the works and predicted that Australia would go through to the World Cup.

Interestingly, FIFA also told us that the draw would operate on the basis of seeded (rather than geographical) pots based on October 2017 FIFA ranking only. The best 7 teams plus the hosts will be placed in Pot 1, then the next best 8 teams are in Pot 2 and so on. 

A team is picked from each pot to form a group. A group can't contain two teams from the same confederation with one exception: a group is able to have up to two teams from Europe, presumably because they have the most representatives.

This is a radical overhaul and departure from FIFA's previous practice where, apart from Pot 1 (which was also seeded based on FIFA ranking), all remaining unseeded teams from the same geographical region or confederation were each placed into the same pot to ensure maximum geographical separation (there were other complexities because each confederation had different numbers of teams. Sometimes groups from two regions were merged). So if I remember correctly you could have one pot with Asia and Concacaf, one pot for Africa and South America and one pot for Europe.

Funnily enough, ESPN had given the USA a 92% chance of qualifying before the matches against Costa Rica and Honduras. 

Miscellaneous odds in other parts of the world

According to We Global Football, NZ looks most likely to play Peru or Chile.

 And Paraguay and Ecuador are outsiders in CONMEBOL.

Andre Lim

*  It's been reported that the FFA wrote to FIFA complaining about the delays in finalising Syria's home leg. This supposedly caused FIFA to intervene and set a deadline for Syria. This makes sense, given that the first leg is due to be played in exactly three weeks!!

^ Why does Malaysia want to host these World Cup Qualifiers?

"Malaysia wants to show they’re the centre of Islamic finance, a progressive country,"

Malaysia wants to set itself up as the home of Islamic finance even though it’s not in the Middle East. “They want to show they’re not low cost labour but an (emerging) technology super power. They want to show off their first world credentials. They have a lot of emphasis on the multimedia corridor, and are very open to investment.

Qatar sees itself as an alternative to Abu Dhabi and the Saudis – this is about flexing the muscles and showing supremacy."

#Disclaimer: These odds are purely for probability discussion purposes. Generally speaking, I don't gamble or bet.

Tuesday 12 September 2017

Another twist to the tale?

Contrary of rumours of a move to a Qatari stadium, apparently the latest and greatest is that the Syrians had planned to use Abu Dhabi, UAE, as their home venue. One possible reason for this is because Australia have a somewhat poor record in the Middle East - if this is true that is a smart tactic. The Arab heat and conditions make it difficult for us to adapt.

FoxSports says:

"With the first leg of the AFC play-off to take place on October 5, it was reported on Monday night that either Jordan, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates will play hosts to the war-torn Syrian team, who backflipped on their initial desire to play in Malaysia."

However, apparently the Syrian players are having difficulty obtaining Emirati visas. (There is the other issue of some ME countries not wanting to be seen endorsing the Syrian team due to certain political implications which I won't go into.) This has resurrected the possibility that Syria's home leg will be played in Malaysia.

In any event these delays are not helping the Socceroos' logistical preparations for their away leg of this critical 4th Round clash in AFC World Cup Qualifying. So is this a shrewd delaying tactic on the part of the Syrians or should we give them the benefit of the doubt? Probably the latter given the fact that they've not had access to a proper home stadium.

Apparently this incident can be compared to the lead up to the Uruguay match in 2005, where the Aussies supposedly bought out all business class plane tickets from Montevideo to Sydney, thus causing the Uruguayans to take economy class.

The lengths some teams will go to just to 'win' is always amusing. But this isn't just any kind of winning here. It's for a shot at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Regardless, I don't like stalling or other non-sporting tactics - regardless of who uses them.

That said, if there truly is no gamesmanship involved, the alternative is that the Asian Football Confederation probably need to get their act together...

Andre Lim

Sunday 10 September 2017

Syria v Australia WCQ venue

Due to its civil war, Syria plays its "home" football matches in neutral territory. This has been in Malaysia for Syria's last 5 home World Cup Qualifying matches.

Apparently there are rumours^ circulating about that Syria may choose Qatar (or at least somewhere other than their usual hood in Malaysia)* as its home venue for the first leg of its crucial Asian World Cup Qualifier against Australia, which is set to take place on 5 October 2017.

However this may not be a wise move.

Let's have a look at the following tables, which together set out Syria's home and away performances.

Syria’s home performances @ Tuanku Abdul Rahman (TAR) Stadium, Seramban, Malaysia and Hang Jebat Stadium (HJS), Krubong, Malaysia

0-0 vs South Korea (TAR)

0-0 vs Iran (TAR)

1-0 vs Uzbekistan (HJS)

2-2 vs China (HJS)

3-1 vs Qatar (HJS)

Syria’s away performances

1-0 vs Uzbekistan
0-1 vs China

1-0 vs Qatar

1-0 vs South Korea

2-2 vs Iran

Syria is very strong at their home away from home in Malaysia. They were undefeated to all teams in the third round of qualifying. They drew 0-0 to South Korea and Iran at home!

Even when they have lost on the road they have never been thrashed, only ever losing 1-0. The upside I suppose is that they can be defeated on the road.

Back in the second round of qualifying (late 2015 and early 2016) the Syrians lost 0-3 to Japan when they used the Al-Seeb Stadium in Seeb, Oman for their "home matches." Being thrashed in one match, especially to a strong Japanese side, is probably not a good indication of  how comfortable a team is with using a particular stadium as its home venue. That said, Syria did win every game apart from their games to Japan though - they lost 5-0 to Japan in Saitama stadium. So perhaps they were somewhat comfortable with using an Omani stadium.

However, if I was the Syrian FA I would want the matches to continue in Malaysia because of how good their recent performances have been - I mean why would you change a good thing? I guess one downside is that a trip to KL is closer than a trip to Doha for Socceroos fans - the Syrians may want less Socceroos supporters.

Eg. the distance from Sydney to KL is 6,611km and the distance from Sydney to Doha is 12,375km; whereas the distances from the Arab part of the world to Doha is considerably shorter (around 2,000 kilometres).

That said, it appears that the indecisiveness over the venue appears to be an issue of providing adequate accommodation and training facilities for the Socceroos. Those two stadiums, HJS and TAR, apparently are lacking such facilities*.

At any rate it looks like Syria have improved rapidly since late 2015 and are more than capable of toughing out narrow wins or draws. 

Add to this the fact that Syria is basically the darling Cinderella of World Cup Qualifying, a major underdog that everyone will be cheering on. Also consider the fact that the Syrian players will desperately want to qualify for the people of their wartorn homeland. Adversity can bring out the best and worst in people. Think of Syria as a more advanced, battle-hardened Thailand or Iraq.

My conclusion is that Syria is a dangerous match-up where away goals could certainly come into the picture.

Andre Lim
"But their last five games have been played in Malaysia, at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman stadium and more recently the Hang Jebat venue some three hours from the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Both are seen as poor-quality venues, while Hang Jebat is in an area lacking hotels of the sort that the Syrian FA are obliged to book for the Socceroos.

Finding suitable training facilities for the Australians may also prove problematic, with the option of training elsewhere and then flying in the day beforehand likely to be considered."

^I don't know where the rumours have come from but here is a secondary source:

Wednesday 6 September 2017

Heartache of World Cup Qualification

Yesterday's disappointment is still fresh in my mind.

However, upon further reflection, we deserve to be where we are for the following reasons:

1) We had a shocking campaign that included 2 away draws to Iraq and Thailand.

2) Our lapses in concentration, cheap turnovers and the desire to play an attacking possession-based brand of football at all costs with no flexibility in plans meant we could, and probably should, have lost those drawn matches or at least one of them. And we did lose when playing quality opposition that was capable of punishing us - ie Japan.

When I say no flexibility, I refer to this crazy notion that one must always stick to one ideal, plan or philosophy.

Postecoglou insists we must play the ball out from a back three even when this is too predictable and lumps pressure on our defenders; he also wants us to play pretty European football when we lack the personnel to execute such tactics, which often also means a lack of a direct approach option, and a reluctance to put more crosses into the box (despite the fact that we have a clear height advantage). I think we do have scope to play counter-attacking football. We need to mix up the tactics and, as many other have said before me, have a plan B.

3) Yesterday, Thailand were jipped and should have had a penalty. The referee seemed to be siding Australia, which was quite dodgy. The score probably should have been 2-2 on that basis. Missed chances on Australia's part don't count. We deserve to be on the play-off route.

4) Room for improvement. We have a stubborn manager and we need him to have a wakeup call. He doesn't seem to get the message and I don't think he will change. It doesn't seem like anyone has the guts to sack him. At the very least we should see this as an opportunity to battle-harden our team, even if our manager won't change. If we aren't good enough, fair enough. If we are good enough, we will qualify - and we'll learn the grit we need to win tough battles. We need to test ourselves at any rate.

Going to a playoff doesn't necessarily mean we will fail at a World Cup - see Uruguay at the 2010 World Cup for example, although I accept that CONMEBOL is quite a different kettle of fish. Of course, the road is perilous, and there is a risk we won't make it but let's see where this takes us.

5) Saudi Arabia were able to beat a pressure-free Japan and conceded less goals in their campaign. Just think about the first proposition for a moment. We were lucky to draw with Japan at home, and that was courtesy of a penalty too.

6) Humility. This is related to 4. I think this is good because it should make us realise that we are actually not that good.

At the end of the day, I suppose we should be thankful that we are still in it.

So bring on Syria on 5 and 10 October I reckon!

It won't be easy. Iran did not concede a goal during the whole campaign...until their last match in Tehran when they conceded twice to Syria. That's an indication of how solid Syria are.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world:

Nigeria can probably wrap up their qualifying campaign with a home win over Zambia in October.

Africa's Group D looks very tight, and any of them are in it with a shot, not just Burkina Faso or Cape Verde. I'd like to see either of them go through.

USA is struggling. But they play Panama at home on 6 October next, so the table can change dramatically.

And so is Argentina and Chile (who have to play Brazil away next). I hope Peru sneak through but they play Colombia and Argentina next - not easy.

Andre Lim

Looks like we are headed for a playoff against Syria

Andre Lim

Tuesday 5 September 2017

Is Japan our friend?

Saudi Arabia are chasing the win now.

Andre Lim

The Equation

4-0 to be somewhat safe, but the first priority is to win.

I'm not sure if 4-0 is achievable...but let's see.

Interestingly, a 1-0 win has the same effect as a 2-0 win. A 3-0 win is OK but assumes Saudi Arabia will fare no better than 1-0 against Japan.

Andre Lim

Monday 4 September 2017


Someone beat me to this comparison but Arsenal and the Socceroos actually have a lot of similarities.


1) pass the ball around with no penetration.
2) are inconsistent.
3) have unsackable managers despite poor results.
4) have fans who seemingly know what the team needs, yet the manager generally refuses to listen, or is oblivious or unphased.

My prediction for tomorrow is 2-0 to Australia. It won't be that easy I think. I hope that's enough.

It won't be enough if the Saudis win 1-0.

And if the Saudis win 2-1, even 3-0 is not enough as their Goals Scored is 18 which is > than our 17.

Andre Lim

Friday 1 September 2017

Wake up call; Socceroos v Thailand

Last night's game was quite disappointing.

It would be a massive understatement to say that our team left a lot to be desired. Having no recognised striker on the pitch, Brad Smith's ball-watching and losing the ball cheaply through turnovers (amongst many other things) all made for painful viewing.

I am more disappointed however with our wasted potential and our leader's refusal to change his management of the team. I think we could have snatched a draw if our set up was different.

Postecoglou somehow has this stubborn idea that we must play possession-based football like those mighty European teams.

But there is more than one way to win a football match. In any situation in life, it is important to be flexible and not to stick to an ideal so rigidly. 

Ryan and our defenders faced ridiculous pressure by trying to 'play out the back' even when they were harrassed by Japanese forwards. There is nothing wrong with hoofing the ball out in such circumstances; that does not make us barbarians and people will not think any less of us. We simply don't have the quality to hang on to the ball in those kinds of situations. And there is nothing wrong with that but we must first admit this and adapt accordingly.

Similarly, it is silly to refuse to cross the ball into the penalty box (because we want to play possession-based football) when we are so much stronger than the Japanese in terms of our physical strength and height. Why should we not play to our strengths?!

In short, all sport requires athletes to be fluid and flexible - we shouldn't stick to one philosophy only Ange. We need to mix it up and be willing to change depending on the situation.

But that's all in the past now, and we have to look to Tuesday now. Somehow I don't think Ange will change anything.

The equation is this now:

If Saudi Arabia beats Japan 1-0Australia needs to beat Thailand by 3 goals. This is because both teams will be tied on Goal Difference (+7) and Goals Scored (17). The next tie breaker is head to head record, and Australia have the better record having beaten and drawn to Saudi to get 4 points vs their 2 points.

If Saudi Arabia beats Japan 2-0 or 2-1, Australia needs to beat Thailand by 4 goals. The latter scenario is due to the fact that Saudi Arabia will have 18 goals for them and Australia will only have 17 if 3 goals are scored. Goals scored is the next tiebreaker after goal difference.

Similarly, if the Saudis win 3-2 we need to win 4-0 - the winning requirement is capped at 4-0 if the Saudis win by a margin of 1.

If Saudi Arabia draw or lose to Japan, any Australian win is enough.

UAE will be hoping Thailand beat Australia, but they do need to beat Iraq by 5 goals away from home (Goals For will be 15 > 14 if Australia do not score).

If we can't beat Thailand by 3 goals at minimum, we arguably do not deserve to go to the World Cup.

We eagerly anticipate Tuesday 8pm, 5 September 2017.

Group A

Meanwhile, in Group A, plenty of crazy things are happening.

- China needs at least 3 goals against Qatar in Doha, while hoping that South Korea and Iran finish off Uzbekistan and Syria respectively.

- If either Syria or Uzbekistan win, that is at least 3rd place sealed for that team (2nd in Syria's case); if both win, Syria actually probably qualifies automatically!

As much as I like the Koreans, I personally hope that Uzbekistan can overcome South Korea.

Andre Lim