Socceroos players have slammed the penalty decision that denied them a key World Cup qualifying victory over Syria.
Leading 1-0 five minutes from the end of regular time, the Socceroos were on the brink of winning the first leg in Malaysia.
That was until Mathew Leckie leapt to compete with Omar Al Somah for a cross into the box.
Though minimal contact was made, it was enough for Iranian referee Alireza Faghani to point to the spot.
“It was evident to everyone it wasn’t a penalty,” Kruse said.
“He’s won the header clear as day and he’s headed it outside the box.
“The guy is six foot five and has fallen down quite easily.”
“You expect that from this referee, we’ve had him before. I think he wanted to give it as soon as he made contact.
“It’s disappointing and we didn’t deserve it.”
Leckie himself described the decision as “very poor” and said a request for an explanation elicited threats of a second yellow card.
“It was just a cross and I thought I just went up fairly and won the header,” Leckie said.
“It wasn’t like I (made) body contact and tried to put him off, I actually won the header. I don’t know what went through the ref’s mind to give a penalty.
“Everyone’s pissed off about the whole situation because I think everyone in the world that watched the game knows it wasn’t a penalty.”
Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou was equally baffled by the call, which was widely panned on social media.
“I don’t have the hindsight of replays, but when a guy gets up and just wins a header I’m a bit bemused,” Postecoglou said.
“But it is what it is.”
Kruse praised Australia’s display and backed them to get the job done with a home-ground advantage at ANZ Stadium on Tuesday and advance to a final two- legged encounter with the fourth-placed CONCACAF nation.
“Our first half was excellent, we had to chance in the second half to kill the game where we’ve hit the post two times in a row,” Kruse said.
“They were always going to have phases in the game where they have chances.
“They’ve got a good striker and a couple of tricky attackers as well.
“And they play every ball long so they’re always going to get chances and second balls. We defended them really well.”
It could take weeks before Western Sydney Wanderers identify a replacement for Tony Popovic, who unexpectedly announced his departure to coach Karabukspor in Turkey on Sunday.
Western Sydney Wanderers chief executive John Tsatsimas says the club has already been inundated with applications for the now vacant coaching position. However, the Wanderers are yet to turn their attention towards appointing a replacement for Popovic.
Chairman Paul Lederer is understood to be away and the club is confident assistants Hayden Foxe and Andres Carrasco can oversee the team in the next fortnight, while technical director Ian Crook is a strong chance of being made the interim coach.
The Wanderers did not have a clear succession plan for their coaches in place and were understandably taken aback by the timing of Popovic’s shock departure. Popovic had another season to run on his contract and no decision on whether he would continue beyond May 2018 had been indicated prior to his move to Turkey.
Former assistant coach and current Socceroos’ assistant, Ante Milicic, has already been linked with the vacant post at their Blacktown training ground. Milicic his highly regarded by players and the club, and would present them with a seemingly smooth transition from Popovic.
Current assistants Carrasco and Foxe will have a chance to stake their claims for the top job, unless they follow Popovic to Turkey.
Former Adelaide United and Young Socceroos’ coach Josep Gombau is another name linked with the position. His Spanish style of football would fit well with some of the club’s players and Gombau has a strong understanding of Australian football.
An option from left of field is Iran coach Carlos Quieroz, who is set to leave his position with Team Melli after the World Cup and has already been linked with coaching positions in Australia. It’s understood Quieroz is attracted to the lifestyle, stability in Australia and is eager to explore opportunities here and in other English-speaking countries.
However, it’s unlikely the former Real Madrid coach will return to club coaching with his preference understood to be with national teams.
Poppa’s achievements with Western Sydney Wanderers
– Appointed inaugural Western Sydney Wanderers coach in 2012.
– One A-League premiership, 2012-13
– Three A-League grand final appearances, 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2015-16.
– Twice runners-up in the A-League regular season, 2013-14 and 2015-16.
Mental health groups are in urgent talks about how to deal with a dramatic spike in demand they are attributing to the same-sex marriage postal survey, with fears the situation will worsen further as the campaign goes on.
Digital youth service ReachOut said it has seen a 20 per cent surge in people accessing its online advice relating to LGBTIQ issues since August, when the postal survey became Turnbull government policy.
ReachOut – a frontline group that has about 1.5 million unique visitors to its website every year – said its online forums have also recorded a sharp increase in activity, with young gay people reporting feeling scared and tired of personal attacks.
One of the country’s top mental health experts – former Australian of the Year, Professor Patrick McGorry – is in no doubt the spike is linked to the divisive debate unleashed by the postal survey campaign.
“We are hearing a lot from LGBTIQ people that this is reviving traumatic experiences, particularly from their school years,” said Professor McGorry, now the executive director of Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health.
“Australia is on the threshold of something really positive but we do have to manage the risk to vulnerable people over the course of the debate.”
While ReachOut and Orygen have gone public with their concerns about the spike in demand, Fairfax Media understands half-a-dozen of the nation’s most prominent mental health organisations have been part of crisis talks during the last three weeks. Some have taken their concerns directly to the government.
ReachOut CEO Jono Nicholas said young LGBTIQ Australians were discriminated against every day and were already at high risk of self-harm.
The national debate about their right to marry was “heightening this level of distress”.
“The debate around the postal survey has been, and will continue to be, a significant drain on both the LGBTIQ community and the mental health organisations that support them,” he told Fairfax Media.
“We fear Australia will be counting the cost of the postal survey for many years to come, and not just to the budget.”
Another major service under pressure from the increased demand, but which did not want to be named, said young gay people were reporting feeling “hated by Australians” as a result of the debate.
The groups say they are hearing not just from gay people but from friends and family similarly distressed about the debate. They say they fear most of all for young people who don’t seek help, with concerns thousands of young people are suffering in silence and at risk of harm as the ‘no’ campaign intensifies.
Opponents of same-sex marriage officially launched their ‘no’ campaign in Sydney on Saturday, led by conservative politicians Cory Bernardi, Matt Canavan and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. Supporters of the reform launched the ‘yes’ campaign in capital cities across the nation on Sunday.
Many same-sex marriage advocates wanted a free vote on the issue in federal Parliament and opposed a public vote – whether by plebiscite or postal survey – partly because of fears about the mental health impacts.
But some opponents of the reform have dismissed the mental health concerns of the campaign, including Senator Canavan, a Nationals MP who said people should stop being “delicate little flowers”.
“Can’t we just all grow a spine and grow up? The debate hasn’t been that bad,” Senator Canavan said in response to warnings from the National Mental Health Commission last week. The worst of the debate had actually come from “vile tweets and statements we’ve heard from ‘yes’ campaigners”, he said.
Federal Liberal Party vice-president Karina Okotel said last week it was not just gay and lesbian Australians facing harassment. She said she had been the victim of “vitriolic abuse” for her stance against same-sex marriage.
“A culture has developed whereby it’s acceptable to vilify, mock, abuse and shame anyone who stands in the way or even raise questions about whether we should legalise same-sex marriage. I have been called a homophobe, a bigot and been told that my views are disgusting,” she told the National Press Club this week.
National Mental Health Commission co-chair Allan Fels said the survey debate had heightened discrimination against gay and lesbian Australians, with LGBTIQ people experiencing “damaging behaviour in their workplaces, communities and in social and traditional media”.
Matildas striker Lisa De Vanna is determined to end her career as Australia’s all-time leading international goal scorer and has set her sights on surpassing Tim Cahill’s record for the Socceroos.
The 32-year-old brought her tally to 43 in emphatic fashion on Saturday afternoon, unleashing a stunning volley to help Australia to a 2-1 win over Brazil at Pepper Stadium. That goal put her two ahead of Kate Gill as the Matildas’ all-time leading scorer and within five of Cahill’s record of 48 as Australia’s overall leader.
When asked after the win over Brazil, De Vanna made no secret of her desire to eclipse Cahill’s goal haul to become the undisputed top marksman in the country. However, she won’t pursue that goal at the expense of enjoying the twilight of her career.
“I’m chasing that, that’s my next thing,” De Vanna said. “But if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I feel like that’s probably why I’m having a pretty consistent game because I’m just having fun. I think about it [the record], but it’s not my main goal. I just want to have fun.”
The veteran forward struck a first-time, left-foot volley at the end of the first half in front of a sell-out crowd of more than 15,000 at Penrith. She described the occasion as “a fairytale” for women’s football and hopes to further state the credentials of the female footballers by outscoring her male counterparts on the international stage.
Time is on her side, according to Matildas coach Alen Stajcic who believes she has a number of years left at international football before contemplating retirement, and the striker is not taking any game for granted at her age. She’s battled injuries throughout her career and knows how delicate careers are for senior players.
“I’m 32, I don’t know when it’s my last game. I’ve played at major tournaments where I’ve been sick and stressed. It’s time for me to actually enjoy the twilight of my career,” she said.
De Vanna was coy whether she’d be able to continue her scoring feat on Tuesday night in Newcastle in the second match against Brazil.
“Physically I don’t think I can play 90 minutes. Whether [Stajcic] starts me, I don’t know. But I know in my body to back it up next Tuesday would be very tough to play 90 minutes,” she said.
While De Vanna is entering the latter stages of her career, a new star continued her rise within women’s football as Sam Kerr showed why she’s in the running to become the first Australian to be crowned World Player of the Year.
The 22-year-old forward scored a glancing header to seal the victory over Brazil in a match where she overshadowed the five-time player of the year, Marta, in the public domain. In the first minutes of the game, every touch from Kerr was met with a rousing reception from the home crowd in one of the most significant signs of adoration for the emerging star.
Initially, those cheers startled Kerr who admits she had to adjust to a crowd she wasn’t accustomed to.
“I did [notice] the first time, but I think I left the ball behind. It kind of got blocked out after that, it’s difficult because you get in the game and the emotion gets the better of you. I was trying to stay in the zone and stay focused, I think it worked,” Kerr said. “It’s just great for women’s football, honestly the girls were saying they were holding back tears during the national anthem, to have that whole crowd behind you. It’s such a different game.”
The Matildas may not yet be the world’s No.1, but after another impressive display to sink South American powerhouse Brazil, they may just have proved they have the world’s best attack.
Australia’s coach Alen Stajcic certainly believes as much, boldly declaring his front three the best in the world after their 2-1 win over Brazil at Pepper Stadium in Penrith where veteran Lisa De Vanna struck a wonder goal and potential World Player of the Year Sam Kerr continued her rise to fame.
“I think Sam, Caitlin Foord and her complement each other really well and probably makes us … the most threatening front three in the world,” Stajcic said.
On the back of their Tournament of Nations triumph, and in their first home match in 15 months, the Matildas showed exactly why the “house full” sign was raised at Pepper Stadium with another impressive victory against the South American giants.
It was a match marked by the brilliance of De Vanna, who has no shortage of stunning strikes in her portfolio but saved one of the best for the biggest of occasions. In front of a sell-out crowd in Sydney (a first for a women’s football match), against the backdrop of Australia’s 2023 Women’s World Cup bid, watched nationally on free-to-air television and against a nation with more prestige in world football than any other, the veteran delivered an advertising campaign money couldn’t buy.
But it didn’t start according to plan for Australia, who were fortunate not to have conceded a Rosanna Augusto free header from a corner early on and spurned a gilt-edged chance of their own when Foord couldn’t guide Kerr’s shot into an empty net.
Chances were otherwise few and far between during a cagey first half when the foul count soared, despite a lenient referee. Late challenges became the norm, and niggling off-the-ball tussles stifled both teams’ creative outlets. Brazil abandoned “joga bonito” for a more agricultural style, all in spite of the presence of five-time World Player of the Year Marta.
The Matildas were no shrinking violets either, but delivered the “beautiful game” with their own moment of magic. From more than 20 metres out, De Vanna struck a breathtaking, looping, left-foot volley past goalkeeper Dani Neuhaus to break the deadlock in the 42nd minute.
It sparked an immediate response from the visitors, who returned from the break with more poise and possession. They almost drew level with their own long-range brilliance before the hour mark when Andressinha’s fierce drive rattled the post.
For the most part, Brazil still couldn’t find a way through Australia’s aggressive press and, after 67 minutes, they crumbled again. Kerr showed why she’s becoming one of the most valuable players in women’s football, rising above towering defenders to score with a deft, glancing header with her back to goal.
It sparked a jubilant response from the crowd of 15,089, who remained on their feet when goalkeeper Lydia Williams thwarted another superb long-range shot from Brazil, saving captain Cristiane’s curling shot off the post.
The South Americans gave themselves a glimmer of hope in the 79th minute when Cristiane’s clever chip into the box was perfectly read by substitute Debinha, who calmly finished a one-on-one with Williams to draw back to 2-1.
It failed to turn the tide. Australia came close to sealing the win when Kerr had two headers cleared off the line in as many minutes before being replaced to a standing ovation. Not even a late chance for Debinha to equalise could take the shine of a friendly result that could mean a lot more in time to come.
The Football Federation Australia board could be spared the embarrassment of being overthrown by FIFA after a majority agreement for a new FFA congress was reached late on Tuesday night, but only if their two fiercest opponents rubber stamp the latest proposal.
The bitter civil war that’s engulfed Australian football for the past year is one step closer to ending after the nine state football federations are understood to have made a breakthrough by reaching a majority agreement for a new membership structure of the FFA. After being told by FIFA to expand its congress from 10 votes (nine for the states and one for the A-League clubs) to become sufficiently democratic and inclusive of the game, the majority of FFA’s members reached an agreement for a 15-seat congress, ensuring the states retain nine votes, four for A-League clubs, one for the PFA and one for women’s football (9-4-1-1).
However, approval from FIFA and the end of their involvement in Australian football’s governance will only occur with the blessing of the 9-4-1-1 model from the A-League club owners and the players’ union, The PFA.
Despite previously requiring only 75 per cent of the existing 10 FFA members to expand its congress, FIFA reinforced its own preference for consensus requiring the approval of all three stakeholder groups before it will accept a new model for Australian football governance, as recently as August 22.
After reaching their own agreement internally – one that ensures a majority of 90 per cent of FFA members – state federations are seeking to meet with the clubs and the players’ union to gain their approval of the model before they can reach consensus and avoid a FIFA Normalising Committee removing the FFA board by November 30.
However, it’s understood the clubs and the PFA are unlikely to accept the new model on the grounds of accountability. Under their proposal, the state member federations will retain 60 per cent of the votes, the minimum majority to elect FFA board directors. Both groups are holding out for larger representation that ensures no one bloc retains 60 per cent of the votes or more.
Another issue is the lack of clarity surrounding the one vote reserved for women’s football. All three stakeholders are in agreement for a stand alone vote for female participants but ambiguity over the state’s proposal of who holds that seat at congress has the clubs and PFA hesitant to accept the proposal.
The clubs and PFA believe the players’ union is best positioned to assume that seat as they represent Matildas and W-League players. There has also been a movement for the only stand-alone W-League club, Canberra United, to take up that seat, despite having close ties to the FFA and governed by an existing voting member, Capital Football.
The prospect of a FIFA takeover increased last month after a three-person delegation from world football’s governing body oversaw two days of lengthy talks but failed to deliver an agreement across all parties. That coincided with allegations of interference from Lowy after consensus was reached twice before breaking down..
Despite the nine state member federations having settled on a voting composition this week that meets most criteria for the first time during the congress saga, the breakthrough could leave the FFA no closer to resolving its bitter deadlock before the November 30 deadline.
The team charged with bringing home Australia’s F-35A Lightning II in December 2018 has reached a few important milestones, with 27 of the first cadre of maintenance crew completing technical training in May.
Squadron Leader Leigh Tinker, senior engineering officer for the F-35A Transition Team, said in a statement on September 12 that he now has 20 personnel stationed at Luke Air Force Base, after initial maintenance training was completed at Eglin Air Force Base.
A number of maintenance personnel have returned to Australia to prepare for the arrival of the aircraft at RAAF Base Williamtown.
Most of them will form the core of 3 Squadron when it stands up as the Royal Australian Air Force’s first F-35A squadron, with others posted to 2 Operational Conversion Unit.
Meanwhile, Wing Commander Darren Clare, who will become the commanding officer of 3 Squadron when the unit transitions from the Hornet, has completed his first flight in the F-35A.
“The jet feels very similar to a Hornet in most flight regimes, and it was exciting to take off in an airplane for the first time solo,” said WGCDR Clare, who is still undergoing operational conversion.
“The operations and maintenance teams made sure I flew an Australian aircraft for the flight, and I was also launched by an Aussie crew chief, which made it all the more special.
“I can see the momentum building, and our people will be ready when Air Force receives its next eight F-35As in 2018, as the transition hits full swing.”
Emirates will offer four daily flights between Sydney and Dubai from March 25 2018 as the airline moves to replace the capacity being withdrawn by alliance partner Qantas.
The new service EK417 has been scheduled as an early evening departure from Sydney, arriving in Dubai a little after midnight. The reciprocal EK416 takes off from Dubai in the evening, arriving in Sydney in late afternoon. The flights will be operated by Airbus A380s.
Emirates’ new flight from Sydney closely mirrors the current A380 Qantas QF1 schedule, which is being rerouted from Sydney-Dubai-London Heathrow to Sydney-Singapore-London from March 25 2018.
However, QF2 takes off from Dubai in the morning, compared with the new EK416’s evening departure.
Emirates said in a statement on Wednesday the new service would compliment Qantas’s changes to its flights to London.
Currently, Emirates’s three Sydney-Dubai flights, all served by A380s, depart at 0600, 1830 and 2110 daily. The departures from Dubai are scheduled at 0150, 0845 and 1015.
It is the latest move from the Dubai-headquartered Emirates in response to changes to Qantas’s London operations.
Qantas announced in late 2016 it was ending its Melbourne-Dubai-London A380 service in favour of a Melbourne-Perth-London offering with Boeing 787-9s, linking the continents of Europe and Australia with regularly scheduled nonstop passenger flights for the first time.
Then in August, Qantas said it would withdraw from Dubai entirely by rerouting its Sydney-Dubai-London flights to Sydney-Singapore-London. It would continue to codeshare on all Emirates’ flights out of Australia as part of their alliance.
The fourth daily flight from Emirates restores that lost capacity from Qantas exiting the route.
Emirates has also previously announced it would move to three daily flights between Brisbane and Dubai (including one via Singapore) and upgauge one of its three daily Melbourne-Dubai flights to an A380.
The changes will mean Emirates will operate 91 flights a week between Australia and Dubai by March 2018, compared with 77 a week currently. The airline serves Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney from its Dubai hub, with some flights operating via Singapore or Bangkok.
Qantas and Emirates plan to seek reauthorisation from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for their global alliance that was first struck in 2013.
Melbourne City faces a stiff challenge as it seeks to defend its FFA Cup title with an away quarter-final against A-League champions Sydney FC on Wednesday night.
At the same time, second-tier Melbourne team Heidelberg United will look to make FFA Cup history by dumping former A-league title winners Adelaide United out of the competition at the same stage at their Olympic Village ground.
George Katsakis, Heidelberg’s coach, has had to work hard to lift his players’ morale after they were rocked by the death of an admired board member, Peter Loukakos, on Sunday morning, just hours before the players had to face Bentleigh Greens in the NPL Victoria grand final.
That had an impact on the players and the coaching staff, and their sadness was compounded by the result of the title decider, which they lost 2-1 after extra time.
It’s a huge task for part-time players at Heidelberg to front up three days later for a sudden-death cup tie against the professionals of Adelaide, and coach George Katsakis is fully aware that their ability to compete in such a big game is compromised by the scheduling.
He wanted the FFA to put on the Heidelberg- Adelaide game next Wednesday (when the other two quarter finals are being staged), particularly as his club faces further fixture congestion when the Bergers fly to Perth at the weekend to take on Bayswater City in the NPL Champions Series.
“It’s certainly not ideal and it will affect the way we have to approach this game,” Katsakis said on Tuesday.
“It’s not making it any easier for grassroots teams to show themselves off to best effect against A-League opposition.
“I will have to make up to five changes from the team that started in the grand final because of fatigue, squad rotation and trying to keep players fresh bearing in mind that we have another game on Sunday.”
It certainly promises to be a night of high emotion at Heidelberg’s Olympic Village ground as the club will honour the memory of 51-year-old Loukakos.
“He was at the club the night before the grand final, he went for a coffee with our team manager. He went home and planned to meet back at the ground at 9.30 am (Sunday) and then we got a call saying he had had a massive cardiac arrest,” Katsakis said.
“It was hard for the boys and for me but I know the way these boys bounce back. They are resilient, they will fight back, but at any level if you are playing three games in seven days it’s terribly hard.”
For City’s new boss Warren Joyce the cup tie against the Sky Blues is a real chance to gauge the progress he has made with his players since he took over in mid-June.
And it couldn’t be a bigger reality check a month before the start of the season than an assignment against the team City beat in last season’s cup final. While City faded out of title contention afterwards, Sydney lost only two matches all season before winning the grand final in a penalty shootout against Melbourne Victory.
“We are trying to to be the best that we can be and make sure that we are competitive. You look forward to the opportunity to play against the best and a successful established manager,” Joyce said on Tuesday.
“It’s just another part of the build up to the season. They have got a set way of playing that’s been successful, they have talented players, they are well drilled, experienced, players who know their jobs and can handle the challenge.”
City also announced the signing of veteran former Adelaide midfielder Marcelo Carrusca, who could be in line to play some sort of role in Wednesday night’s game.
National Premier League Victoria winning coach John Anastasiadis and his vice-captain Luke Pilkington have added their voices to the growing clamour for the FFA to establish a national second division sooner rather than later.
Anastasiadis guided Bentleigh Greens to their second National Premier League Victoria championship in three years when they defeated minor premiers Heidelberg 2-1 after extra time in Sunday night’s grand final at Lakeside and immediately said the club needed new targets to keep the players focussed and striving to improve.
“We are holding out for a second division. We have done everything possible in this NPL and now we are hoping the powers that be will make some decision in the upcoming months,” said Anastasiadis, a coach who has little left to prove in this grade of the game.
“You can only give the guys so many motives. We have won the grand final, won the minor premiership and had a run in the FFA Cup,” he said, pointing to Bentleigh’s achievements in recent years, a highlight of which was a semi final appearance against Perth Glory in the first FFA Cup competition of 2014.
“We want to get more professional to give these guys a reason to come to training.
“We don’t think small, we think big. We are a suburban club. We don’t have the history of a South Melbourne or a Heidelberg, but we want to establish ourselves, our own club and a professional system.”
Pilkington is these days mixing a warehouse job with studying for a Masters Degree in Business (Sports Management) at Deakin University. He formerly worked as a stockbroker – but he would love to have a second chance to play football as a professional, even at his relatively advanced age of 27.
The Canberra-born midfielder/defender had a taste of it for a two-year period in 2009-2011 when he was on the roster at Melbourne Victory, having been given an opportunity by Ernie Merrick after winning a Football Superstar competition on Foxtel.
“I was young back then with Victory. If you do get the limelight of a second division they [players] will be knocking on doors. It’s a question of getting the funding. We are very close, it’s just a question of biting the bullet and doing it. The second tier is very close, I think.”
Sceptics will point to Bentleigh’s recent 4-0 FFA Cup loss to Western Sydney Wanderers and say the gulf is too great, but Pilkington argues that.
“I don’t think the gap was that big against the Wanderers. It’s the second moments [in games] that determine those results. We have all come from eight hours work that day …. it’s the lapses in concentration or the final 10 minutes when you are 2-0 down,” he said, explaining how the score blew out as tiredness crept in.
In a full-time professional environment that tiredness and those mistakes would be less likely to occur, he says.
George Katsakis, boss of losing team Heidelberg, now has to pick his players up and prepare them for their upcoming FFA Cup quarter-final against A-League side Adelaide United on Wednesday night.
The team were badly shaken on grand final day by the death that morning of board member Peter Loukakos and it did throw a huge dampner over the whole grand final experience, Katsakis said.