Rafinha thrilled with Champions League start

6 December 2012 14:15

Young Barcelona playmaker Rafinha was delighted with his starting berth in his club’s scoreless draw against Benfica on Wednesday.

The 19-year-old featured for 58 minutes in the Champions League Group G encounter, and was thrilled to be given the chance to prove his worth at the highest level.

“If you are a young player at this club it makes you happy to be given your chance in a big match like this,” Rafinha told the UEFA website.

“Okay, the club had already qualified but every Champions League match is important and it’s an immense feeling, marvellous, even to be part of it.

“Unforgettable and still more incredible to do so beside my brother, Thiago (Alcantara). This is a strong side we have.”

Rafinha made his official first-team debut last season, but has mainly been playing with Barcelona B so far this term.

Materazzi: They will miss Mourinho

6 December 2012 14:24

Marco Materazzi says people will not fully appreciate the value of Jose Mourinho’s achievements at Real Madrid until he has left the club.

The Portuguese coach has received his fair share of criticism since he arrived at Madrid in 2010, and former Inter Milan defender Materazzi feels Mourinho deserves more respect for what he has done at Santiago Bernabeu.

“When he leaves Spain people will value what he’s achieved, as they did in Italy,” Materazzi told Marca.

The Italian said Mourinho’s main objective at Madrid is to help the club to their 10th European Cup title.

“I speak to him every so often and I know that his priority is the Champions League and winning Madrid its 10th title,” he said.

Madrid finished second in Group D behind Borussia Dortmund – but ahead of Ajax and Manchester City – to book their ticket for the knock-out stages of the competition.

Postecoglou unhappy with AFC confusion

6 December 2012 14:05

Ange Postecoglou says he would contemplate boycotting the AFC Champions League if he was still with former club Brisbane Roar.

The Roar have been deprived direct entry to the group stages of the continental competition despite winning last year’s A-League grand final, after the Asian Football Confederation cut Australia’s allocation from two spots and one play-off place down to one of each.

Premiers Plate winners Central Coast Mariners will inherit the place in next season’s main draw, with the Roar now having to progress through the play-offs to qualify.

A two-time championship-winning coach with Brisbane, the Melbourne Victory boss was fuming that clubs had no direction on what they were playing for.

“I just think it’s confusing. I think every club, every player, every supporter wants their team to win, and to strive for something, and I don’t think it’s clearly defined right now,” Postecoglou said on Thursday.

“I’m not sure who’s supposed to deal with that, usually it’s your own competition that does that.

“I’ve been bemused by the whole thing all week. I’m surprised even Brisbane have taken it lying down to be honest, I wouldn’t have. I’d almost pull out of the comp.

“If I was still at Brisbane, I’d be pushing for it (a boycott).”

Postecoglou said wanted to know what the aim of the A-League season was, so he could set about trying to reach Asian football’s premier club competition.

“My biggest problem with all that is, and it’s been a constant gripe of mine – I just want to know who the champion is,” Postecoglou said.

“We’re in a race, and there’s two different finish lines and everyone’s got an opinion, but in my mind the champion for our league has always been the one that wins our grand final.

“So I am totally bemused as to how we can take somebody else’s definition of that. It’s pretty simple in my mind, I just want to know what competition I’m in, what I’m going for.

“I don’t want to be 78 in a retirement home, having to ring up people to see whether I’ve won something or not.”

Osieck defends experienced picks

6 December 2012 13:56

Holger Osieck says fears of a ‘negative experience’ kept him from using younger players in Australia’s first two East Asian Cup qualifiers.

Osieck claimed prior to this week’s qualifying tournament in Hong Kong that development of younger players would be the focus rather than progressing to the final four, but has selected almost his most experienced line-up possible against the host nation and North Korea.

The 64-year-old German coach has defended his decision and explained the younger players would feature heavily in the final two qualifying matches against Guam and Taiwan.

“The young boys that haven’t played until now will get the opportunity,” Osieck said after Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with North Korea.

“I can tell you, if I have played the young boys today with their lack of experience, it would have been a negative experience for us.

“We still need the senior players to guide.”

Osieck made just one change to his starting line-up from the opener against Hong Kong for Wednesday’s clash with North Korea, with Central Coast Mariners goalkeeper Mat Ryan handed the gloves ahead of Eugene Galekovic of Adelaide United.

The Socceroos led early thanks to a goal from Melbourne Victory’s Archie Thompson but struggled to run out the match, conceding an equaliser to North Korea in the second half.

Osieck admitted his players were fatigued after their second game in three days but argued they had enough fuel in the tank to steal victory from the North Koreans late on.

“I think at the end of the game, they bounce back and they showed great spirit and determination, and I think it was unfortunate that we could not score,” Osieck said.

“The players tried very hard and I have to give them a lot of credit.”

Australia’s next match is against Guam on Friday.

Chipperfield inducted into Australian hall of fame

6 December 2012 13:48

Scott Chipperfield has been inducted into Football Federation Australia’s Hall of Fame alongside two others at an event in Brisbane.

Chipperfield, who represented Australia at both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, and former Australian women’s midfielder Alison Forman became the latest members of the Hall of Champions, the highest tier of the Hall of Fame for players.

Alan Vessey was inducted into the equivalent Hall of Honour for administrators.

At the announcement in Brisbane on Thursday, FFA CEO David Gallop applauded the trio’s contribution to football in Australia.

“Scott, Alison and Alan have contributed significantly to our sport over long and distinguished careers and I commend them all for their achievements,” Gallop said.

“Their stories are part of the game’s rich history in Australia and I’m delighted that they now have the formal recognition by the Hall of Fame.”

Forman played 95 times for Australia’s women’s national team between 1989 and 2002, including starting all of the ‘Matildas’ matches at the 1995 and 1999 World Cups, as well as the 2000 Olympic Games.

The 43-year-old was also one of the first Matildas to have a long career overseas, playing for Fortuna Hjorring in Denmark between 1992 and 1999 at a time when the top-tier club won six domestic titles.

Vessey has been a football administrator at different levels since 1975, including undertaking the role of Company Secretary of Australian Soccer Federation from 1988 to 1991.

Chipperfield became the first player involved in taking Australia to the 2006 World Cup to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The 36-year-old was a late bloomer in terms of professional football, making his first overseas move in 2001 at the age of 26 having won successive NSL titles with Wollongong Wolves.

Chipperfield moved to FC Basel and stayed there for 11 years, winning seven league titles and six cups in his time in Switzerland.

Having started his career as a striker and left winger, Chipperfield was converted into a left-back for the Socceroos in the lead-up to the World Cup in Germany.

Chipperfield started all four of the Socceroos’ matches in Germany, while he played a part in all three games at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.