Brilliant beginning to the EPL – Sunderland beat Spurs; On Tenacity

The season got underway today with a fascinating game between Spurs and Sunderland – wasn’t really a high quality game, and both teams looked rusty. What stood out for me was Sunderland’s determination to not make it easy for Spurs. McShane in particular was brilliant in defence, and there was only one major weak moment when the new keeper Gordon let the ball go through to Berbatov, who seemed to have been brought down…though my initial thought was that he just ran into the tackle. Sunderland held off for most of the match, and the only bit of quality up front from Michael Chopra in the 93rd minute got them the goal…a fairly familiar story for a club that doesn’t have many big players.
I was a little surprised that Keane took Kieron Richardson off in the second half – but his replacement – Miller – was sprightly and tenacious. Dwight Yorke’s age unfortunately showed on the pitch, he was outpaced easily…I think he’s going to be a weak link for Sunderland.
I usually pick one club to support from what expect will be the bottom half of the league – in the past, it’s been Portsmouth, Wigan and then Portsmouth again. I make this choice a few weeks into the EPL, but because Keane is coaching Sunderland, I’m supporting them.
ManUtd play Reading tomorrow. I thought they looked a little rusty during the community shield game as well, particularly Rooney. Ronaldo was, as always good, but Evra was fantastic. Didn’t get to see much from Nani. I think the midfield is going to be a lot stronger this year with Hargreaves coming on board. I think Liverpool are going to be a force to reckon with this year – they’ve finally got a striker – Torres – who should have been at ManUtd, really. Sad to see Rossi, Richardson, and particularly Alan Smith, leave ManUtd, and surprised that Gabriel Heinze wants to switch to Liverpool. One team that is likely to be underestimated this season is Arsenal, but they have skill and pace that many others don’t, even if the midfield looks weak.

Currently watching Man City vs West Ham, and Man City look in great touch. An almost completely new squad under former England coach Sven Goran Eriksson, they seem to have pace and quality…Manchester Derby’s are going to be fun.

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I’ve always admired Roy Keane for his tenacity…was in agreement with him when he had left ManUtd after a run-in with Alex Ferguson on some comments Keane had made about players – that they just weren’t trying hard enough. You could see it then – Alan Smith was then the only player making a fight of it in midfield. I just finished reading an excellent article on Keane and Sunderland:

It is why Keane’s hackles rise when ‘survival’ is mentioned within his earshot, as it was during Sunderland’s press call on Thursday. Silence, hard stare. “I hope that’s the last time you use that word,” he responded. Finally. “Certain words get attached to certain clubs and I don’t want that attached to Sunderland.” Did it make him angry? “No. This isn’t angry. You haven’t seen me angry.”

Neither has his club; not in public, at least. A model of decorum on the touchline during his debut season in management – when he lifted Sunderland from 22nd in the Coca Cola Championship to first place – and surprisingly personable with his peers, Keane is anticipating changes this season. The Premiership is no environment for faint hearts.

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What’ll Happen To Sony Entertainment Television If India Crash Out?

It’s Sunday, and barbershops across India will have more words in the air than hair on the floor. Talking about this.

Some might take solace from the fact that Pakistan have crashed out too, but I wouldn’t bet on it. For the last two months, TV channels have sidelined important issues (like the Iran situation) for “Breaking News” of inconsequential cricket stories. Yesterdays first breaking news was that India won the toss and chose to field. It’s the last one that broke, that will probably give Sony Entertainment Television sleepless nights. How will India crashing out will impact Sony Entertainment Television (SET)– will the rates be cut? Will advertisers pull out or just re-negotiate rates?

I just asked my sister (she’s a media planner), and she says that advertisers will want to pull out – SET’s ratings will drop; advertisers wanting to renegotiate rates is a best case scenario. We’ll see — there are two games to go.
I just checked, and SET seems to have done quite the smart thing – as per the Economic Times, the SET’s cricket advertising inventory (for the ICC Champions Trophy and World Cup) has been underwritten by Dentsu, Zenith Optimedia and Starcom, in exchange for ad inventory at 10-15 percent discount, for resale. So, the burden then falls on Dentsu, Starcom and Zenith Optimedia…Apparently, the ad revenues were expected to touch Rs.560-580 crore, with the World Cup accounting for 70 percent (that’s Rs. 392-406 crore).

In fact, lots of money has been plonked into several online initiatives as well, with Maruti rumoured to have allocated around $1 million for ad inventory on the official cricket world cup site, for which rights were bought by STAR India’s Indya.com. We could see more mayhem…

Anyway, it somehow lends credence to my favourite crib about Cricket and Bollywood being the two most oversold properties for advertisers (particularly, with the Gov’s insipid ruling on cricket telecast), simply because they’re no-brainers. I hope that will change too…

Related:
Rs 500 cr & slog overs left
BCCI Invites Bids To Host Web Portal; Minimum Guarantee $50 Million
Some (Online) Launches Around The Cricket World Cup
Nimbus Issues Notice To BCCI To Pull Out Of $612 Million Cricket Rights Deal
Indya.com Bags $1 Million Sponsorship From Maruti For Cricket World Cup Site
Everybody Wants Cricket…For Free

An aside: I wonder if Pakistan’s loss to Ireland is a blessing in disguise for President Musharraf. Is the heat off him, and will public anger now be directed towards the Pakistan cricket team? Only time will tell….

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Did you see it? Did you? Did you?

I took a break to watch the last six overs of the Indian innings…and wow. I’m not going to go and on about how well Tendulkar batted, or how he managed to get a century in conditions where the other great player in this team failed. One shot:

A good length delivery, and Sachin leans ever so slightly forward, transfers his weight on to the front foot and lifts the ball over point, and over the boundary ropes. With. Effortless. Ease.

A couple of things made this shot different from any other that he played before or after it, or for that matter, any shot I’ve seen for quite some time:

  • He hit the ball almost too soon, midway up the bat: he judged the length early.
  • A straight batted, languid follow through. He didn’t hit the ball too hard. All timing

Nothing after it was as good. It’s just great to have Sachin playing again, and I’m glad that this puts an end to all those speculations about the end of his career. He may not score as quickly as a Sehwag or a Dhoni, be as fluent as a Lara, as bludgeoning as a Gilchrist or a Jayasuria, or as picture-perfect or patient as a Dravid – but he is one person who can do any or all of these things when he wants to, and more.

Okay. I’ll stop gushing now. I didn’t realise how much of a Tendulkar fan I am until today, seeing him bat after so long.

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Keano’s coaching Sunderland !

Whoa!

Been a while since I wrote about football…and this is interesting. Roy Keane’s taken over as coach of Sunderland…not that Mick McCarthy did much. Given the history that Keano’s had with Mick, I’m sure he’ll push himself to do better.

What’s in Keano’s favour? He’s passionate about winning, and hates to lose. The windspeed in the Sunderland dressing room should rival the famous ManUtd hairdryer. The difference is that Keano’s always been a player who’s lifted his team by giving it his all on the football pitch. Being a coach could be even more frustrating for him than sitting on the bench. I’m going to track Sunderland now, and see how he does.

Also, I’m wondering what Glasgow Celtic got from signing up Keane – he was out injured for almost the entire season, and I think he only played in his own testimonial at Old Trafford. Though I’m a fan of his, the Roy Keane signing looks like a waste of money for Celtic to me; the fans shouldn’t be too pleased.

Sunderland fans must be edgy – they got relegated with hardly a win, and Keane comes in as a very experienced player, but an inexperienced manager; the best players don’t always make the best managers – and football is a lot about man management. Keane should know – he must have been very tough to manage with his mercurial temper.

And what has he done, just days after taking over Sunderland? Signed up some big names – former ManU striker Dwight Yorke from Sydney FC, Irish international Liam Miller (who was supposed to be the new Roy Keane, but hardly ever got a game), Kavanagh from Wigan, Stanislav Varga from Celtic.

Do you see a trend? Reminds me of what Manuel Pellegrini did with Villarreal by signing up some talented players who weren’t getting their due in their respective clubs. Give the importance, the belief and the opportunity and watch them fight against the best. Now Kavanagh and Varga are both big, imposing figures in the midfield. Perfect buys for Sunderland, imho, since they will not be easy to push, or run around. Also in are Ross Wallace from Celtic and David Connolly, another Irish international. So, that’s Yorke and Miller from Keane’s association with ManUtd; Kavanagh and Connolly from Ireland, and Ross Wallace and Varga from Celtic. All players with whom Keane has been associated in the past. Will it work? Well, as Keano said: “I am here to win football matches. When you do that, everything thing else takes care of itself.”

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Half time musings

Germany look as if they’re afraid to give Argentina any space to move forward, and playing as negative as they are, not taking many risks with tackles, they’re allowing Argentina to dictate terms and control around 80% of the pitch. Tevez and Riquelme are particularly impressive and Sorin is getting in some impressive pushes in.

The way it’s going, it seems that a goal is going to come either from an Argentinian foot or a German head (from a set-piece)…. Which is unfortunate because the way Argentina is controlling the game, one would love to see more of them in this World Cup. I also loved the way some of the Argentinian players are dribbling with the ball at the German defense – that’s the part of this game I love most, and it’s something we’ve seen very very little of in most matches.

Now rooting for Argentina, and waiting for things to get Messi.

btw- is anybody watching the Cricket or the Tennis.

Update: Since Argentina’s goal unexpectedly came off Ayala’s head, maybe the German goal will come off a foot.

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How to beat Brazil

To be honest, I can’t think of a tactic or a formation to beat Brazil, and I wonder if any manager can, when faced with a team that plays so instinctively, and with such fluidity; as I write this, Ghana is a goal down against Brazil and Cafu, a right back was just in the box, about to attempt a shot on goal.

There is, however, one factor that comes to mind- something that’s troubled me ever since the first match- the Fear Factor. This Brazillian team is as good as the last and the one before that; whether it is better is debatable. Still, it has been hyped to such an extent that teams are actually afraid of taking them on. They go into the game believing that they have to prevent Brazil from scoring at all costs. Think back to what the Aussies did against Brazil – they played with a low back line, often with as many as five at the back afraid to move forward, thus allowing the seven of ten Brazillians to forge forward beyond the halfway line. A low back line also makes the offside trap difficult, if not impossible. Ronaldo had three players around him when he passed the ball to Adriano who scored against the Aussies.

The Fear Factor costs many a team the game because they attempt to keep players of the quality of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Adriano quiet, which, over a period of 90 minutes seems improbable, if not impossible. The way to go about it is to assume that you’re going into the game a goal down and attempt to score two to win. If, in the process, Brazil score one, you’re still in the clear. An attack against Brazil will force them to opt for counterattacks instead of moving forward with numbers, and you’re always safer against two forward instead of seven. Ghana, a goal down, has started attacking Brazil, and had their finishing been better, could well have beent two up on Brazil. Their attacking play has put Brazil on the defensive, which is what happened when Australia started attacking too.

So, the way to have a chance against Brazil is to go into the game believing that Brazil are as effective in attack as France have been so far. Which is where a team like Argentina could beat the Brazillians, because they’ve got quality players who are in form and high on confidence. They won’t be afraid and they can win.

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