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Monthly Archives: January 2011

JAPAN won their fourth AFC Asian football championship yesterday (29 January) after a tense final against Australia in Qatar’s Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.

The competition began back on 7 January with the hosts Qatar losing 0-2 to Uzbekistan in the opening match of Group A. However Qatar made up for their opening loss by beating China 2-0 and Kuwait 3-0, which assured their passage into the Quarter-Finals as group runners-up. Uzbekistan won the group while China and Kuwait went home.

Japan almost lost their opening match in Group B against Jordan. It took a 92nd minute first ever international goal by centre back Maya Yoshida to earn a 1-1 draw to save their blushes. Japan picked themselves up just like Qatar in their next two games, beating Syria 2-1 with ten men and thrashing the surprisingly hopeless Saudi Arabia 5-0. Saudi Arabia (three times Asian champions) lost all three of their games in Qatar and only scored one goal. They came bottom of Group B with Syria also going out, with Japan winning the group and advancing alongside Jordan.

Group C consisted of two of the favourites to take the title, Australia and South Korea. The other two teams in the group, Bahrain and in particular lowly ranked India never really stood a chance and in the case of the latter, got well and truly hammered. India suffered 0-4, 2-5 and 1-4 defeats to Australia, Bahrain (Ismaeel Abdullatif scoring four goals) and South Korea respectively. Bahrain lost both of their games against the big two in the group, who drew 1-1 when it came to their match against each other. Australia won the group on goal difference from South Korea.

Group D was the ‘Group of Death’ in my eyes as it consisted of: the U.A.E., Iran, North Korea and reigning Asian champions Iraq. Iran won all three of their games (the only side to do this in the group stage) and advanced as group winners along with Iraq. North Korea and U.A.E. finished third and fourth respectively and didn’t score a single goal between them. 😦

The Quarter-Final line up looked like this: Uzbekistan vs. Jordan, Australia vs. Iraq, Japan vs. Qatar and Iran vs. South Korea.

Qatar looked to be heading into the last four when they were 2-1 up and a man up against Japan with just 20 minutes to go. Unfortunately for the host nation Japan levelled the match through Shinji Kagawa, and won it in the 90th minute thanks to Masahiko Inoha scoring his first goal for Japan in just his second match for his country. Uzbekistan knocked-out Jordan by beating them 2-1, and Australia ended Iraq’s quest to defend their title with a 1-0 extra-time victory coming courtesy of a 118th minute goal from former Leeds Utd and Liverpool winger Harry Kewell. South Korea beat Iran in the last Quarter-Final, also 1-0 after extra-time.

Thus the Semi-Final line up was complete with Japan vs. their footballing nemesis South Korea, while surprise package Uzbekistan would take on Australia.

Japan and South Korea were level at 1-1 after 90 minutes and South Korea once again went into extra-time. They fell behind in the 97th minute, but Hwang Jae-Won scored his first goal for South Korea in the very last minute of extra-time to take the match to a penalty shoot-out. Sadly there was to be no fairy tale ending for the Taegeuk Jeonsa (Warriors) as Japan held their nerve to win the shoot-out 3-0. In stark contrast Australia’s match against Uzbekistan was a stroll in the park for the Socceroos who won 6-0! 😮

Uzbekistan’s luck didn’t change in the third place Play-Off match either. South Korea took the bronze medal with a 3-2 win.

And so we came to The Final, Australia vs. Japan. Australia were looking to become the first team ever to win two different continental championships and to become Asian champions at just the second time of asking in the country that was (wrongly) awarded the 2022 World Cup instead of them. Australia is hosting the 2015 Asian Cup as well, so to go into their own tournament as reigning champions would be a huge boost. Japan on the other hand were out to win a record fourth Asian championship. They were currently level on three championships with Saudi Arabia and Iran. Japan also wanted to keep their 100% success rate in Asian Cup finals.

The match itself was a really tense, nail biting affair with chances galore – especially for Australia – but after 90 minutes nobody had broken the deadlock, so to extra-time (again for Japan) we went. Extra-time was just as gripping as the previous 90 minutes, but Japan finally made Australia pay dearly for all their missed chances with just 11 minutes to go. Making just his second senior appearance for Japan, Tadanari Lee found himself unmarked in the middle of the Australian penalty area and hit one of the sweetest and coolest left-footed volleys that I have ever seen. Aussie goalkeeper and now their most capped player, Mark Schwarzer (Fulham’s keeper) could only watch the ball fly into his net. This was Lee’s first goal for Japan and he had only been on the pitch for nine minutes when he scored! It is not every day that a footballers boyhood dream comes true is it?

Super-sub Lee celebrates the most important goal he will probably ever score.

Lee’s goal proved to be the winner meaning that Japan had won the 2011 Asian Cup, their third triumph in the last four tournaments and record fourth in the last six. What makes their achievement even more remarkable is the fact that Japan’s first Asian Cup appearance wasn’t until 1988 when they didn’t even score a goal. But next time around in 1992 they won the title at home and added the 2000 and 2004 titles to the trophy cabinet before their triumph yesterday.

Japan’s Keisuke Honda was awarded ‘Most Valuable Player’, while South Korea won the ‘Fair Play’ award and their midfielder Koo Ja-Cheol top scored after netting five goals in the tournament.

The Blue Samurai (Japan) have well and truly earned their title back and will represent Asian in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil. But before that they have a chance of winning the Copa América (the South American championship) later this year in Argentina. They along with Mexico have been invited to be the 11th and 12th teams in the tournament alongside all of the South American nations. Surly Japan can’t hold both the Asian and South American titles at the same time? Watch this space.

Japan – Worthy champions indeed.

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AN Australian solider has been awarded his country’s highest military honour, the Victoria Cross for Australia, for his actions in battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan in June 2010.

Cpl Benjamin Roberts-Smith, 32, was leading a mission in the volatile Kandahar province on 11 June 2010 when his men came under heavy enemy machine-gun fire.

Realising his men were unable to move under the onslaught of bullets, Cpl Roberts-Smith deliberately gave away his position and opened fire, killing one Taliban fighter and overpowering another two.

At the award ceremony, Australia’s PM Julia Gillard told Cpl Roberts-Smith: “You went to Afghanistan a soldier, you came back a hero.

But Cpl Roberts-Smith (who also has Australia’s third highest military honour, the Medal for Gallantry) was much coyer about his actions saying: “The real heroes are those who died for their country.

There are still 1,550 Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.

Cpl Roberts-Smith becomes the second person to have received the Victoria Cross for Australia after SAS Trooper Mark Donaldson was awarded his VC just over two years ago for rescuing an interpreter under heavy fire in Oruzgan province, Afghanistan. In total, 98 Australians have now been awarded the VC – the highest military honour in the Commonwealth.

Cpl Benjamin “Ben” Roberts-Smith VC, MG with his five-month old twin daughters, Eve and Elizabeth.

BEFORE I start, I must apologise for not blogging at all since New Year’s Day. I have just been so weighed down with work since I went back to school that I just haven’t had the time to write.

So I’ll just quickly sum up the fifth and final Ashes Test match and some of the records that England smashed at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Michael Clarke was appointed to Australian Captain after Ricky Ponting was declared unfit to bat with his injured finger. I think the fact that he had averaged just 16.14 also played a factor in him not playing don’t you? Australia also gave debuts to Usman Khawaja (the first Pakistani Australian to play for Australia) who replaced Ponting at number three, and spinner Michael Beer – the 10th different spinner Australia have used since Shane Warne retired in 2007.

During the match England’s Paul Collingwood a.k.a. Brigadier Block announced his retirement from Test Cricket. He will still play O.D.I. matches and captain the Twenty20 side though.

Clarke won the toss and decided to bat. The home side (who were determined to level the series) were all out for 280. They were 189-8 but the Jekyll and Hyde-like Mitchell Johnson along with Ben Hilfenhaus hit 53 and 34 respectively to give Australia what looked like a fighting chance.

But then came the finest innings England have ever played in Australia. Alastair Cook scored a terrific 189 off 342 balls. This score meant that Cook had scored a huge 766 runs in the series at an average of 127.67. Wally Hammond is the only Englishman who has scored more runs in a five match series – 905 against Australia in 1928/9. Ian Bell scored 115 (his first Ashes century) and wicketkeeper Matt Prior hit 118 from 130 balls. Prior’s ton was the quickest English Ashes century since Sir Ian Botham in 1981 at Old Trafford. England’s sixth, seventh and eighth wicket partnerships all made 100, the very first time that this has happened in a Test match. England passed 500 runs in an innings for the fourth time in the series, the first time we have ever done this. The tourists also went past 600 runs in an innings for the second time in the series and ended the innings with a score of 644 all out – our highest total in Australia…wow!

Australia needed to score 364 to make England bat again but were all out for 281. Steve Smith (54*) and Peter Siddle (a Test best 42) offered some resistance near the end, which came when Beer played a delivery from Chris Tremlett onto his stumps. England won by an Innings & 83 runs – the first time that a touring side has won three Tests by an Innings in a series.

Cook scored the most runs in the series (766) while James Anderson took the most wickets (24). England have destroyed Australia in this series and all I can say is this…HOW DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO HAVE IT DONE TO YOU?! 😛

Ashes 2010/11 5th Test – Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney

Australia won the toss and elected to bat

Australia

vs.

England

280 (106.1 overs @ 2.64 rpo)

1st Innings

644 (177.5 overs @ 3.62 rpo)

M.G. Johnson 53 (66)

A.N. Cook 189 (342)

J.M. Anderson 4-66

M.G. Johnson 4-168

281 (84.4 overs @ 3.32 rpo)

2nd Innings

S.P.D. Smith 54* (90)

J.M. Anderson 3-61

 

Umpires – Aleem Dar (Pak) and Billy Bowden (NZ)

England won by an Innings & 83 Runs – England won the Test series 3-1 with one Drawn Test

ENGLAND retained The Ashes with one Test match to remaining in the series after annihilating Australia in the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (M.C.G.).

The tourists once again won the toss and England Captain Andrew Strauss once again elected to field. This would allow James Anderson a chance to bowl again after suffering a side strain, and it also meant that under fire Aussie Captain Ricky Ponting would have to bat much sooner in the game with his fractured left little finger.

Opener Shane Watson should have been out twice before he scored his first run but his luck was in. Well it seemed so anyway until he was caught by Kevin Pietersen (who almost caught him out earlier) off Chris Tremlett for just 5. Ponting then fell to Tremlett for yet another cheap score.

The end of Ponting? He is not playing in the fifth Test. Form, injury or is his time is up?

Anderson soon claimed the vital wicket of Michael Hussey when he had just scored 8. This was the first time in the series that Hussey was out for a score of below 50.

Anderson seems to be quite popular for getting Hussey out for 8.

With Philip Hughes also out (just before Ponting was) Australia were in trouble at 58-4 and things didn’t get any better. England managed to bowl Australia out for just 98 😮 (their lowest Ashes total at the M.C.G.) in 42.5 overs before Tea. All of the ten Aussie wickets were caught behind the wicket with keeper Matt Prior taking six catches.

Before the close of play on day one England’s openers, Strauss and Alastair Cook had taken England’s total to an impressive 157-0, a lead of 59 runs. Even at this point in the Test match I was 100% certain of an England win. No Test match had been won by the team who had been bowled out for under 100 in the first innings since 1907.

Strauss and Cook both feel early on day two and this brought Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen to the crease. Then came perhaps the most controversial incident of the series so far. When Pietersen was on 49 he appeared to edge the ball to Aussie wicketkeeper Brad Haddin. Umpire Aleem Dar said Pietersen was not out but Australia asked for a review of the decision. Dar’s decision was upheld by the third umpire but Ponting continued to argue with both on pitch umpires for Pietersen’s dismissal. Ponting was later fined 40% of his match fee. Even schoolboys know not to argue with the umpire. Seriously Ricky group up.

The last actions of a desperate man?

Unfortunately Pietersen was out after he added just two more runs to his total and was quickly followed back to the pavilion by Paul Collingwood (8) and Ian Bell (1) who got themselves out to identical shots. Matt Prior was also caught out but somebody up there obviously likes him because the delivery was a no-ball which allowed him to remain that the crease and go on to make 85.

When your lucks in...

England were eventually all out for 513, a lead of 415 runs. Peter Siddle had taken six England wickets and two catches on his home ground, but the innings belonged to Trott who was at the crease right until the end and finished with a score of 168 not out.

Three of Trott’s five Test 100s have come against Australia.

This series has now seen another rare occurrence thanks to England’s 513 total. We haven’t scored 500+ three times in an Ashes series since 1928/29 when we won the series down under 4-1.

There was further bad news for Australia when it was reviled that Ryan Harris had fractured his ankle during his run up earlier in the England innings. He would take no further part in the Test, meaning England needed just nine wickets to retain the Ashes.

Harris lying injured on the ground. Get well soon.

Australia’s top order again failed as they began their second innings and Hussey was out for a duck. The score was now 104-4. They eventually limped to 169-6 at the end of day three, still 246 runs behind with just three wickets in hand. Haddin and Siddle put on 86 runs for the eighth wicket, but they were clearly just delaying the inevitable. Siddle was caught by Pietersen off Graeme Swann after playing one big shot too many and there was just Ben Hilfenhaus standing in the way. He only lasted four balls before he edged a ball from Tim Bresnan to Matt Prior to complete a pair and to confirm an England victory by an Innings & 157 runs – England’s biggest win over Australia since Jim Laker’s 19-90 match in 1956. This is also the first time that Australia have lost two Test matches in a home series by an innings.

ASHES! IT’S THE ASHES! 😀 The England players celebrate the final wicket of Hilfenhaus.

 

YEESSS! If only the Aussies could have got the flag right. It looks like the Danish flag in reverse.

The win was celebrated by the England squad performing Graeme Swann’s ‘Sprinkler Dance’ in front of the Barmy Army. Hopefully we’ll be seeing scenes like this after the fifth and final Test at Sydney.

Move over Usain Bolt, sport has a new pose!

 

Ashes 2010/11 4th Test – Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne

England won the toss and elected to field

Australia

vs.

England

98 (42.5 overs @ 2.29 rpo)

1st Innings

513 (159.1 overs @ 3.22 rpo)

M.J. Clarke 20 (54)

I.J.L. Trott 168* (345)

C.T. Tremlett 4-26

P.M. Siddle 6-75

258 (85.4 overs @ 3.01 rpo)

2nd Innings

B.J. Haddin 55* (93)

T.T. Bresnan 4-50

 

Umpires – Aleem Dar (Pak) and Tony Hill (NZ)

England won by an Innings & 157 Runs – England lead series 2-1 with one Test remaining and have RETAINED THE ASHES! 😀

Man of the Match = I.J.L. Trott

PS: Believe it or not (but it is true) this is my 200th blog!