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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 26 August 2017
26 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 26 AUGUST 2017 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Bergers remain on course for historic treble Two down, one to go GEORGE STOGIANNOU Heidelberg United's excellent season continues from one high to the next as the club followed up last Sunday's Premier Plate clinching 5-3 win against Bulleen Lions, with a penalty shootout victory away to Sydney United in the FFA Cup on Wednesday night to secure a quarterfinal berth. Both wins ensure that Heidelberg continues to feature in the two national competitions available to federation member clubs: the FFA Cup and the National NPL cup competition. Sunday's 5-3 win against Bulleen Lions came by virtue of a barnstorming finish after the Bergers twice trailed by two goals during the game. Trailing 3-1 at the 75th minute, the Bergers scored four goals late in the game to secure a historic first ever Premier’s Plate trophy, to go alongside their first ever Dockerty Cup won just six weeks prior. Athiu and Noon each scored a brace and Josh Wilkins added the fifth in injury time. For Heidelberg coach George Katsakis, winning the Premier's Plate is very significant. "It's something we were really looking for- ou can't buy this. You can't bring players in overnight and allow this culture to transpire in a year or two. It takes time." ward to, [and] worked really hard to achieve. These moments will stay with us for a very very long time. Having come off a Dockerty Cup win, some people would have said 'Okay, we're settled because we've got some silverware'. But contrary to that I just wanted to win the Premier's Plate and of course the premiership itself in a couple of weeks’ time if we can, just to fulfil a massive year." There were echoes of the Bergers' Dockerty Cup final triumph, in Heidelberg's hard fought FFA Cup Round of 16 win away to Sydney United at Edensor Park on Wednesday. Both games went to penalties with the score locked at 1-1 at the end of extra time. In the ensuing penalty shoot-outs, it was Heidelberg keeper Chris Theodoridis who made the telling save to give the Bergers victory. Katsakis was full of praise for his players after their FFA Cup win calling it a remarkable achievement. "The message that was received by the players and executed by the players, they delivered the plan and the message to perfection. And that, to me, was very important knowing that my players are responding, [it] is incredibly rewarding for me. There's a different culture While the Bergers have w heights this seaw peaks remain for it to conquer. It remains just a semifinal win away from the chance to compete in the NPL 1 grand final and become the first Victorian team in the NPL era to win the treble, an achievement which has thus far proven e for the dominant teams of the past few NPL seasons, South Melbourne and Bentleigh Greens. Katsakis says "We're two games away from winning a grand final and creating hisor me on a personal el, that's definitely the goal. The FFA Cup, to this e've achieved a great ement. But the national premiership is probably the most significant after the championship, because it gives you the opportunity to play the other champion NPL teams in Australian to be crowned the NPL Champion of Australia, and access the branding rights that come with it, and more importantly the automatic qualification in the Round of 32 in the FFA Cup next year." Socceroos and Japan ready for World Cup qualifying showdown One of Asia's great footballing rivalries resumes next week when Japan hosts the Socceroos in a World Cup qualifier. Australia has yet to defeat the Blue Samurai on Japanese soil. At the same time, however, Japan is yet to defeat the Socceroos in a World Cup qualifier. When the two face off in Saitama this coming Thursday night, vying for the top two automatic qualifying spots in the group, the Blue Samurai will enter the match knowing a win over Australia will send it to the World Cup finals in Russia next year. On the other hand, a loss to the Socceroos would mean Japan would risk going into a series of playoffs. The pressure has been building on Bosnian-born Japanese coach Vahid Halihodzic ahead of this pe- nultimate group match especially following two recent draws against Iraq and Syria. "I have been told that w have never beaten Australia in a [final-round] qualifier, but we had a chance to beat them the last time we played them," Halilhodzic said. "This has been the most difficult list I hav had to put together." "This team has character and that is what we need fo this [Australian] game. The players have to be samurai warriors. I want the players who take part in the game to show that spirit and have no fear. "It's a difficult situation but I believe my players can rise to the occasion." He added, "I have analysed the Australians for the last two months and I went to Russia to watch them in the Confederations Cup. They The high stakes battle resumes between the Socceroos and the Blue Samurai. had virtually their best squad and are a strong physical team. They have strengths but also weaknesses." The wily coach has shown a preference for the 4-3-3 formation in Japan's recent matches, while Socceroos boss Postecoglou has persisted with his three at the back system. Whether he persists with that system on Thursday remains to be seen. Halihodzic has named a 27-player squad for the remaining qualifying match- es against the Soccerooss and the Saudis. Fourteen of the 27 players are based in Europe, with most in the Bundesliga. Key players include midfielder Keisuke Honda who has just joined Mexican club Pachuca, midfielder Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund) and skipper Makoto Hasebe (Eintracht Frankfurt), as well as striker Osako from Cologne, with some of these players coming back from absence due to injury. Australia will be without skipper Mile Jedinak who has ruled himself out after fitness concerns. BLUE SAMURAI SQUAD: Goalkeepers - Eiji Kawashima (Metz), Masaaki Higashiguchi (Gamba Osaka), Kosuke Nakamura (Kashiwa Reysol). Defenders - Yuto Nagato- mo (Inter Milan), Tomoaki Makino (Urawa Reds), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Hiroki Sakai (Marseille), Gotoku Sakai (Hamburg), Gen Shoji (Kashima Antlers), Naomichi Ueda (Kashima Antlers), Genta Miura (Gamba Osaka). Midfielders - Makoto Hasebe (Eintracht Frankfurt), Yojiro Takahagi (FC Tokyo), Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund), Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), Yuki Kobayashi (Heerenveen), Gaku Shibasaki (Getafe), Yosuke Ideguchi (Gamba Osaka). Forwards - Shinji Okazaki (Leicester City), Keisuke Honda (Pachuca), Takashi Inui (Eibar), Yuya Osako (Cologne), Genki Haraguchi (Hertha Berlin), Yoshinori Muto (Mainz), Kenyu Sugimoto (Cerezo Osaka), Yuya Kubo (Gent), Takuma Asano (Stuttgart).
19 August 2017
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