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FIFA World Cup Soccer 2006 (Archive) Biggest sporting event in the world. This is time for the sky high excitement.

 
 
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  #1  
Old June 6, 2006, 04:02 AM
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Lightbulb Group F - Australia, Brazil, Croatia, Japan.

The World Cup begins in 3 days. The 1st Round concludes in 2 weeks. Time to focus on each Group/team individually.

Group F - Australia, Brazil, Croatia, Japan.
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  #2  
Old June 6, 2006, 04:05 AM
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Pele tips Brazil to struggle
From correspondents in Geneva
June 5, 2006

A TRIO of former Brazil World Cup greats led by Pele has gone against public opinion by declaring the defending champion will struggle to make the final at Germany 2006.

Struggling ... Ronaldo kicks air against New Zealand. Pic: Associated Press







Pele, Tostao and Falcao all the current Brazil side is not invincible and must improve if it is to claim a record sixth title.

Brazil secured a comfortable 4-0 win over New Zealand in its final warm-up game this morning, but even coach Carlos Alberto Parreira has begun to demand an improvement from his superstars, who play Australia in Munich on June 18.

While a 10-man Australia scored an encouraging 1-1 draw with the Netherlands in its friendly match overnight, the Socceroos' other Group F opponents Japan struggled in a tough 1-0 draw with lowly Malta while Croatia beat a Croatian All-Star side 5-0.

Brazil is tipped to cruise through the group, but the old guard is not so sure.

Pele has said his 1970 World Cup-winning side would beat today's model, and his former attacking partner Tostao wouldn't be surprised if Brazil was eliminated early.

"The team has an incredible potential," Tostao, who helped Brazil win its third World Cup in 1970 in Mexico, said.

"But right now, it's not that much better than the other teams (in Group F). It wouldn't be a surprise if it was eliminated.

"The differential for this team is that it has three spectacular players in Ronaldinho, Kaka and Ronaldo.

"But if they have bad days, the rest of the team is normal, in the same level as the others."

Falcao, a star at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, also agreed Brazil still has to improve before being labelled "better than the others".

"Brazil still hasn't been able to put a team together," Falcao said.

Brazil only led the All Whites in Geneva 2-0 with five minutes left following goals to Ronaldo and Adriano, before late strikes by Kaka in the 85th minute and Juninho in injury-time.

"We will need to be better than that at the World Cup," coach Parreira said.

"We have things to improve including the ball out of defence and the co-ordination of the four men up front (Ronaldo, Kaka, Adriano and Ronaldinho)."

Parreira claimed the New Zealand game was important because the Kiwis had a similar style to Australia.

In Dusseldorf, Keiji Tamada scored his first international goal for 18 months to lead Japan which was forced to make three changes from the side which drew 2-2 with Germany last week.

Frontline forwards Naohiro Takahara, Atsushi Yanagisawa and wing back Akira Kaji were all missing from Japan's final warm up game.

Japan's coach Zico, also a former Brazil World Cup star, was frustrated by his team's lack of penetration and will be anxious to have Takahara and Yanagisawa fit for the Group F opener with the Socceroos in Kaiserslautern on June 12.

"We were poor," Zico said. "Hopefully we've got it out of our system now because time is getting tight.

"It's a bit of a step back. We didn't have the right mindset, perhaps because we knew we were playing a weaker side."

Croatia fielded a second string side for its match with a team of Croatian professionals in , the day after its first-choice XI lost 1-0 to Poland.
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  #3  
Old June 6, 2006, 04:07 AM
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Croatia detects defensive chinks
June 5, 2006

CROATIA coach Zlatko Kranjcar has criticised his team's defending after the 1-0 defeat by Poland in its latest World Cup warm-up.

Kranjcar said after Saturday's game that he was happy with Croatia's dominance, but he has since focused on a defence whose blunders in the previous friendly helped Iran earn a 2-2 draw.

"It is evident that our defence is repeatedly showing weaknesses after corners or free kicks, when we often concede goals," the Vjesnik daily today quoted Kranjcar as saying.

"It also happened in the qualifiers that our opponents did not create chances but managed to score due to our occasional lack of concentration."

Croatia conceded a second-half goal from Ebi Smolarek after the Poland striker had found space in the box to head home a Maciej Zurawski corner in the 54th minute.

Kranjcar said the game also confirmed the importance of Rangers star Dado Prso to Croatia's attack, as the striker was sidelined with a mild viral infection that also struck several other players.

"Prso is our key force and we missed him a lot against Poland," Kranjcar said.

"I've yet to decide whether to pair him with Ivica Olic or Ivan Klasnic.
Croatia's final warm-up game against Spain in Geneva on Wednesday should remove one more uncertainty.

"That game will open the way to our first choice of goalkeeper," Kranjcar said.

The chief candidates are Tomislav Butina and Stipe Pletikosa, who have both shown solid form peppered with occasional mistakes.

Croatia opens its Group F campaign against Brazil in Berlin on June 13 before facing Japan on June 18 in Nuremberg and Australia on June 22 in Stuttgart.
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  #4  
Old June 6, 2006, 04:10 AM
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Japan missing heart: Nakata
From correspondents in Bonn
June 6, 2006

JAPAN's Hidetoshi Nakata has labelled his side a shambles a week before its opening World Cup game with Australia.

Nakata ... says the Japan squad is 'too friendly'. Pic: Reuters






Nakata blasted his teammates for lacking heart after Sunday's stuttering 1-0 win over Malta in its final warm-up game.

"We got nothing from the game," said Nakata. "It doesn't matter what sort of football you play - unless you run and work for each other it's pointless. Those are basic things."

The 29-year-old midfield player has already complained that the atmosphere within the Japan squad is "too friendly" and said the Asian champion is "not ready" for the World Cup.

Shunsuke Nakamura, the only player who has dared to cross swords with Nakata, suggested his fellow midfield player might want to lighten up. Nakata has clearly ignored the advice.

"We're hardly at the stage where we can suddenly change things," said Nakata. "What we're missing is the heart."

Japan's most recognisable player is no stranger to controversy, and was involved in frequent run-ins with former coach Philippe Troussier before the 2002 World Cup.

Nakata was influential in last week's morale-boosting 2-2 draw with Cup host Germany, but the mood in the Japan camp has changed after injuries to key players.

Front-line strikers Naohiro Takahara and Atsushi Yanagisawa are both carrying knocks, and wing back Akira Kaji looks doubtful for the Group F opener on Monday (AEST).

Japan is also drawn alongside Croatia and tournament favourite Brazil in a challenging first round.

Reserve striker Keiji Tamada scored Japan's winner against Malta and sought to defuse a potential rift in the squad during the countdown to the clash with Australia.

"We're in a strange country where we don't speak the language so it hasn't really hit us that we're at the World Cup," said Tamada. "But we'll be ready."

Meanwhile, Brazil coach Zico had pledged to stop tinkering with his side ahead of the Soccerooos game in Kaiserlautern,, but injuries could disrupt his plans.

Zico is unlikely to spring any late surprises despite calling up 66 players during his four years in charge.

"If it's not broke there is no point messing around with it," he tsaid overnight.

"At this stage I'm extremely happy with things and we are in good shape for the Australia game.

The return of Takahara and Yanagisawa for the opening game would be a huge boost for Japan.

"They did not play against Malta because they weren't 100 percent and we're saving them for Australia," said Zico. "I'm not worried."

Takahara, in particular, will be desperate to play after enduring Cup heartbreak four years ago when he was ruled out by a form of deep vein thrombosis.
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  #5  
Old June 6, 2006, 04:53 AM
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Mr. Cricket, why don't we discuss WC tournament and individual groups here?
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  #6  
Old June 6, 2006, 07:23 AM
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Miraz: I can see your point, but I think (for the next fortnight anyway - e.g. 1st Round) that it will be too difficult to discuss every Group in just the one thread. There will be plenty of News (Injuries/Comebacks, etc) & Reviews (Match Results, Individual Performances, etc) to come out of the 1st Round. Therefore I think it's best that everyone opens a thread on their favorite Group (as I have done here) and hopefully it should make things easier (in the 1st Round anyway). Obviously everyone will still be posting their thoughts in the Tournament Thread during this time, nonetheless.
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Old June 6, 2006, 08:02 AM
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Kewell set for Liechtenstein game
June 6, 2006

AUSTRALIA will unleash Harry Kewell in its final World Cup hit-out against Liechtenstein but how big a role he will play remains unclear.

Australia coach Guus Hiddink has flagged using Kewell only as an impact weapon off the bench during the World Cup – worried about his level of fitness after a groin tear playing for Liverpool in the FA Cup final last month.

But Kewell played a storming 85 minutes as a starter in his surprise return from injury last Friday – albeit against a Dutch amateur team in an 8-1 romp – scoring twice and setting up two other goals.

Hiddink remains undecided on how best to use Kewell, with his role in the Liechtenstein game tomorrow (3.30am Thursday AEST) likely to provide a clear indicator of how Australia's gamebreaker will be used when the Socceroos kick off their World Cup against Japan next Monday.

"He was playing for almost 90 minutes in the amateur game ... there was no reaction and we will play him for sure in the Liechtenstein match," Hiddink said.

"But we have to be sure that he is top, top fit and he has missed a lot of the training the other players have done for the past three weeks."

Hiddink used Kewell to stunning effect off the bench against Uruguay in the second World Cup play-off game in Sydney.

His effective contribution after being introduced at the 30-minute mark – rather than the sad sight of him limping off in last year's European Champions League final and the FA Cup after breaking down as a starter – is surely looming large in the Dutchman's mind as he considers how to approach Japan.

Tiny Liechtenstein is ranked well outside the top 100 in the world and the match in Ulm, southern Germany, is being used as hopefully an easy kill for the Socceroos after a tough hit-out against world No.3 Holland in Rotterdam on Sunday.

Australia battled manfully for a 1-1 draw against the Dutch in a bruising encounter, fighting back from a goal down and spending the last half-hour with 10 men against a team ranked among the World Cup favourites.

The performance won the public admiration of Holland's coach Marco van Basten and – most importantly – proved to the Socceroos they belong at this World Cup.
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  #8  
Old June 6, 2006, 08:44 AM
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once kewell comes back...australia will be a much stronger side....

i dont expect them to beat brazil but japs nd croatia shud be peice of cake..why?? coz japs dont know the full potential of our team....thats what i reckon took holland nd greece by surprise....
  #9  
Old June 6, 2006, 11:08 AM
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Australian World Cup soccer squad coach Guus Hiddink (L) walks with his team onto the Melbourne Cricket Ground before a training session in Melbourne May 24, 2006.




Back row L/R:
Marco Bresciano, Luke Wilkshire, Mark Schwarzer, Scott Chipperfield, Mark Viduka, Mile Sterjovski, Jason Culina.

Front row L/R:
Craig Moore, Lucas Neill, Vince Grella, Brett Emerton
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  #10  
Old June 6, 2006, 11:15 AM
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Kewell takes hands-on approach
By Robert Lusetich in Stuttgart
June 7, 2006

AS Australia settled into its secluded German castle on Monday, they could have received no warmer welcome than the sight of Harry Kewell training at breakneck speed.

Fired up .. Kewell at training yesterday. Pic: Gregg Porteous




Kewell moved freely and aggressively during the Socceroos' first practice in Germany and appears to have fully recovered from the recurrence of a groin injury sustained during the FA Cup final three weeks ago.

In what will be a major boost to a team that struggled to find an attacking spark against The Netherlands on Sunday, it now seems certain the left winger will start in Australia's final warm-up early tomorrow morning (AEST) against Liechtenstein.

If he gets through that game, Kewell, 27, will have made a compelling argument that he should be included in the starting line-up for the first World Cup game against Japan on Monday even if coach Guus Hiddink is leaning toward saving him as a high-impact substitute.

The Australians were further encouraged by the fact Tim Cahill, the goalscoring hero of the 1-1 draw against the Dutch, also appeared uninhibited in his movement on Monday, shaking off the effects of a knee injury sustained playing for Everton, while veteran defender Tony Popovic is also available for selection.

"Everyone is fine," a relieved assistant coach Graham Arnold said.

"We have total full-squad selection. We trained this afternoon and both Harry Kewell and Tony Popovic joined in.

"Everyone is back on board."

Liverpool's Spanish coach Rafael Benitez - who once thought Kewell to be a waste of money, openly questioning his desire to play - predicted the Australian could make a big splash in the tournament.

"Last season was Harry's best for Liverpool and it was very unfortunate he was hurt in the cup final. That was unlucky for him.

"Until then he'd had no problems with his fitness since his comeback and was getting stronger with every game.

"There were a lot of games last season when we saw Harry beating players and making a lot of crosses. He played his part in a much better season for us in the Premiership."

Kewell will need to show stamina much more than style against Liechtenstein considering his only outing since breaking down on May 13 was against a Dutch amateur side - even bigger cannon fodder than the tiny European principality - last Friday.

Last week in The Netherlands, Hiddink appeared to have made his mind up that Kewell would play as a super-sub during the Cup.

"He will not be top-fit in the tournament," the coach said. "He is not a player who will be able to go full out for 90 minutes for three games. We have to be careful how we deal with that."

But as Hiddink later acknowledged, Kewell is one of the few who can make the difference with one action.

The Australian
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  #11  
Old June 7, 2006, 05:24 AM
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Cahill fit, raring to go
By Guy Hand in Oehringen, Germany
June 7, 2006

AUSTRALIA midfield player Tim Cahill has declared he can play as many World Cup minutes as coach Guus Hiddink wants him to, saying he is fit and firing after recovering from a knee injury.

Cahill believes he is ready to play 90 minutes in the Socceroos' opener against Japan on Monday despite an interrupted preparation following a knee ligament injury sustained in April playing for English Premier League club Everton.

The Socceroos eased Cahill through their Melbourne training camp a fortnight ago, and he missed the 1-0 friendly win against European champion Greece.

He has since played two half-games with mixed results - against Dutch amateur side VV Kloetinge last Friday and a substitute's appearance against the Netherlands in last Sunday's 1-1 draw.

Cahill scored in the 8-1 win over Kloetinge but jarred his knee and left the field at half-time as a precaution.

He then came on to score the equaliser against the Netherlands in Rotterdam, turning in an all-action 40-minute performance in the sort of physical game he relishes.

"I'm doing what everyone else is doing," Cahill said of his preparation.

"It's been a long time coming since I've been injured but the only way to find out is by playing.

"I just jarred (the knee on Friday) - nothing I could do about it.

"I could have possibly played on, but it's the World Cup I've got to look forward too, not games like that.

"I'm not nervous - I just want to play."

Cahill has had plenty of first-hand experience against Hidetoshi Nakata, the midfield player considered to be one of Japan's stars.

Nakata has gone head-to-head with Cahill in the English Premier League - Nakata plying his trade for Bolton Wanderers - and the Australian is a big fan, nominating him as the player the Socceroos must stop.

"Great ball player," Cahill said of Nakata.

"He can see a pass before he's made it.

"He can makes things happen, and they've got a lot of good players like (Celtic midfield player Shunsuke) Nakamura.

"They're very good players and we've got to show them a lot of respect."

AAP
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Old June 7, 2006, 07:23 AM
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Neill wary of referees
By Guy Hand
June 7, 2006

AUSTRALIA defender Lucas Neill fears overzealous officials looking to tone down physical play may ruin the team's hopes against World Cup favourite Brazil.

Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira today welcomed FIFA president Sepp Blatter's call for referees to "protect the good players" from overly rough play in the tournament starting on Saturday (AEST).

But Neill fears officials will get carried away, believing Blatter's call may have an adverse impact on the Socceroos - especially against Brazil in Group F on June 18.

The Australians were criticised by some Dutch players for their physical style in their drawn friendly in Rotterdam on Sunday.

"The game against Brazil is going to be all desperation and lunges, and I hope it doesn't turn into a bit of a farce," Neill said.

Neill defended Australia's committed approach that upset some of the Dutch players, because it was a warm-up game, saying the Socceroos were playing to their strengths against a more skilful team.

"We just try to assert our authority by playing a high-pressure, high-tempo game," he said.

"We had to try and upset the rhythm of their passing game because they're so technically gifted.

"I thought we did it very well."

Parreira meanwhile hoped that referees would heed Blatter's instructions.

"We always hear this before a World Cup," he said.

"They always say violence will not be allowed and gamesmanship will be stopped. It's a good idea and I want to see it put into practice."

Brazil is wary of the threat posed by Australia and its committed style.

"Australia are very tough opponents, and they're going to cause trouble for all the teams in the group, including us," Parreira said.

"We have to make our skill count, we have to impose our skill and keep the ball on the ground."

Australia plays Liechtenstein in its final pre-World Cup friendlies tomorrow morning (AEST), but the Socceroos are already focusing their attention on their opening World Cup match - against Japan in Kaiserslautern on Monday.

The fixture is considered a virtual sudden-death match for both teams.

Neill said the team's preparation had been perfect, having answered the three challenges posed by European champion Greece a fortnight ago, world No.3 the Netherlands on Sunday, and coach Guus Hiddink on the training pitch.

"I'm glad for the games we've had to prepare because it's asking some questions and we're answering them, and on the training pitch," he said.

"We're going to go in fully equipped and prepared."
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Old June 7, 2006, 08:02 AM
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Mate carry on with dream. Croatia and Japan would nail you. Did you watch how Japan played againest Brazil Confedartion game? They drew it and that was a competative game (not a frinedly). They beat european champion and simply unlucky to lose againest Mexico.
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Old June 7, 2006, 10:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thebest
Mate carry on with dream. Croatia and Japan would nail you. Did you watch how Japan played againest Brazil Confedartion game? They drew it and that was a competative game (not a frinedly). They beat european champion and simply unlucky to lose againest Mexico.
nailing australia isnt as easy as u think.....uruguay tried nailing us but it backfired...same goes for greece
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Old June 7, 2006, 11:07 AM
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i don't know about croatia, but i am pretty sure the japanese will have the last smile after ninety minutes in the middle with the socceroos.
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Old June 7, 2006, 12:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thebest
Did you watch how Japan played againest Brazil Confedartion game? They drew it and that was a competative game (not a frinedly). They beat european champion and simply unlucky to lose againest Mexico.
If you want to talk Confederations Cup (Yes, 'that' tournament which took place 12 months ago) - Australia lost 4-3 to Germany & 4-2 to Argentina in the Group Stages. This was under Frank Farina's guideance.

The side has come a long way under Hiddink, since that tournament. In fact, Australia defeated Uruguay only a couple of months later to Qualify for this World Cup (a side that - beat Brazil 1:0, drew 1:1 with Colombia & drew 1:1 with Argentina - in the 4 months preceding the WC Qualifiers). Australia can certainly turn it on when it counts, too.

On Japan. Is this the same side that recorded a measly 1-0 over Malta the other night - prompting it's finest player, Hidetoshi Nakata, to blast his teammates for 'lacking the heart' and labelling his team 'a shambles' less than a week out from its opening World Cup fixture against the Socceroos? Hmmmmm.

Past 'successes' count for nothing, now, mate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by thebest
Mate carry on with dream. Croatia and Japan would nail you.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I will happily reserve my judgements until after the 1st Round.

'Que Sera Sera. Whatever will be, will be. We're going to Germany. Que Sera Sera.'
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Old June 7, 2006, 12:22 PM
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Australia
2006 World Cup squad
Coach: Guus Hiddink



No. Pos. Player.Club.
1 GK Mark Schwarzer Middlesborough
2 DF Lucas Neill Blackburn Rovers
3 DF Craig Moore Newcastle United
4 MF Tim Cahill Everton
5 MF Jason Culina PSV Eindhoven
6 DF Tony Popovic Crystal Palace
7 MF Brett Emerton Blackburn Rovers
8 MF Josip Skoko Wigan Athletic
9 FW Mark Viduka Middlesbrough
10 FW Harry Kewell Liverpool
11 MF Stan Lazaridis Birmingham City
12 GK Ante Covic Hammarby
13 MF Vince Grella Parma
14 DF Scott Chipperfield FC Basel
15 FW John Aloisi Deportivo Alavés
16 DF Michael Beauchamp Central Coast Mariners
17 FW Archie Thompson PSV Eindhoven
18 GK Zeljko Kalac A.C. Milan
19 FW Joshua Kennedy Dynamo Dresden
20 MF Luke Wilkshire Bristol City
21 MF Mile Sterjovski FC Basel
22 DF Mark Milligan Sydney FC
23 MF Marco Bresciano Parma
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Old June 7, 2006, 12:31 PM
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International Friendly
Group F

Australia v Liechtenstein
18:30 UK

Spain v Croatia
20:00 UK
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Old June 7, 2006, 12:46 PM
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Shocking start by the Socceroos.

Liechtenstein up 1-0 thanks to a Lucas Neill OG.

Almost conceded another, soon after, too.
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Old June 7, 2006, 12:52 PM
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ya its 3 40 in the morning nd i watched for a while...the sbs coverage was horrible...

i dont think australia is playing to their full potential....they wud rather take it easy nd give in than play to their full potential nd loose a player or 2 to injury

japs lost to mexico aswell....winning these last warm up match isnt worth it if its gonna cost u a few player...

viduka, aloisi, bresciano arent even on the field....i dont wanna stay up 4 in the morning nd watch a team of subs play ...so i left nd writing this post...

YAWN....newayz good nite...
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Old June 7, 2006, 12:55 PM
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btw, schwarzer isnt on the goalpost either...so ofcourse goals r gonna come raining down...
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Old June 7, 2006, 01:00 PM
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Lets not start making excuses now. We started horribly.

Australia 1-1 Liechtenstein (30 mins)
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Old June 7, 2006, 02:29 PM
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Full Time

Australia 3-1 Liechtenstein

Very lacklustre display by the Aussies. The passing was poor throughout the night, and the Defence had another one to forget. 7 changes from the squad that took on the Netherlands the other night. No Viduka, Culina, Bresciano, Grella, Chipperfield & Schwarzer. Kewell, Cahill & Aloisi returning from Injury + Popovic & Lazaridis also started. Kewell looked promising in patches, Aloisi worked hard, but Cahill can improve. Both Popovic & Lazaridis had shockers. In short, Defence was very sloppy, but for me, Josh Kennedy has really impressed in the 30 minutes he played.
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  #24  
Old June 8, 2006, 12:02 AM
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Socceroos make life tough
Guy Hand in Ulm, Germany
June 8, 2006

Liechtenstein 1 Australia 3
AUSTRALIA survived a huge pre-World Cup scare from tiny Liechtenstein this morning (AEST), scoring twice in the final 15 minutes to post a 3-1 friendly win in Ulm.

Bright spot ... Kewell played for an hour. Pic: Reuters





Substitute Joshua Kennedy scored in the 75th minute with a header to break a 1-1 deadlock and John Aloisi put the issue beyond doubt with Australia's third goal just seven minutes from time.

What was expected to be an easy kill for Australia against a team ranked well outside the world's top 100 was anything but.

The Socceroos had to fight back from a goal down, going behind after defender Lucas Neill sent a header into his own goal in the eighth minute.

Striker Mile Sterjovski got the Socceroos back on level terms after 20 minutes but Guus Hiddink's men could not find a way past their plucky opponent, despite several chances.

Liechtenstein, with a population of just 33,000, also had its chances particularly in the opening 10 minutes of the second half.

The largely unimpressive performance will give Australia plenty to think about before its World Cup opener against Japan on Monday.

One of the few bright spots was the impressive performance from Harry Kewell who played for an hour before being substituted.

In the dying minutes, Hiddink also sent on Mark Milligan, as well as training extras Neil Kilkenny and Kristian Sarkies for their international debuts.

Coach Hiddink wasn't surprised his team lacked sharpness just three days after its 1-1 draw against the Netherlands in Rotterdam.

"It is normal that we don't play as well as we did over there. There was a bit of a lack of concentration and we cannot afford to make those types of mistakes,'' he said.

The Dutchman felt his men steadily improved as the match wore on.

"Well after that sloppy period in the beginning, we started to build up a little more pace in the second half especially with some changes on the left side and we went somewhat better," he said.

Hiddink was heartened by Kewell's return from a groin injury but felt the Liverpool star must continue to improve before the Japan clash.

"We planned to play him (for) an hour so he can practice again tomorrow and the day after.

"I hope, bit by bit, he recovers his strength because you need to be fit," Hiddink said.

"He did a rather good job but still has to find another 20 to 30 per cent more strength."

AAP
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  #25  
Old June 8, 2006, 12:04 AM
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Villain Torres makes amends
From correspondents in Geneva, Switzerland
June 8, 2006

Spain 2 Croatia 1
A CLASSY extra-time goal from striker Fernando Torres and a free kick from debutant Mariano Pernia earned Spain victory in a World Cup warm-up today (AEST).

Spain appeared to be heading for defeat after centreback Pablo Ibanez nodded the ball into his own net after Niko Kranjcar floated a seemingly innocuous ball into the area in the 14th minute.

But Pernia, making his first appearance in a Spain shirt after being called up to replace the injured Asier del Horno, equalised when his miscued free kick made its way through a forest of defenders and crept past keeper Stipe Pletikosa at the far post just after the hour.

Torres looked to have spurned the chance to win the match for Spain 15 minutes from time, when he had a weakly struck penalty saved by Pletikosa, but he atoned by scoring a fine individual goal in stoppage time.

The Atletico Madrid striker cut past two defenders and slotted the ball inside the post to give his side the win and stretch its unbeaten record to 22 matches.

Spain begins its Group H campaign against Ukraine in Leipzig bext Wednesday, then faces Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

Croatia, which finished third in its inaugural World Cup in 1998 but went out in the first round four years ago in South Korea and Japan, faces a baptism of fire in Group F.

It meets five-time world champion and tournament favourite Brazil in its opening match in Berlin on Tuesday facing Japan and Australia.

Agence France-Presse
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