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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 09 September 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 9 SEPTEMBER 2017 27 SPORT FFA CEO throws support behind under fire Postecoglou Australian Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou. PHOTO: AAP VIA AP/MICK TSIKAS FFA CEO David Gallop has doused heated speculation concerning Ange Postecoglou's immediate future as Socceroos' boss in the wake of Australia's failure to automatically qualify for the Russian World Cup. Speaking to Fox Sports the day after the Socceroos' match against Thailand in Melbourne on Tuesday evening, Gallop indicated that Postecoglou has the backing of the FFA ahead of the play-off games against Syria in early October and if successful a home and away tie against the fourth-placed CONCACAF team in the final play-offs in November. "We're committed to the preparation for these four critical games and supporting the players, support staff and importantly Ange in that preparation. "Playing in Asian Football Confederation (AFC) means we've got experience in tough travel and logistical situations and we invest heavily to make sure that's done to a worldclass standard." He added: "We obviously would have loved to have qualified directly - but on any measure we dominated the game and had a number of situations which could've led to goals. "Watching us hit the post is agony for everyone. The team has had great success under Ange and we go into these four games confident we will perform well." Gallop preferred to frame the play-off series in a positive light saying, "It's another reminder of the big agenda and the big opportunities in this sport. That first weekend in October and in fact the next month are just massive on a range of fronts - the Matildas, the launch of the A-League and W-League, NPL finals series, concluding rounds of the FFA Cup, now the qualifiers - it [is a reminder] that the length and breadth of the sport is quite unique. That, in a way, is a wonderful challenge and wonderful opportunity." "Drawing Syria is a reminder of the diversity of the AFC and the unique challenge of qualifying through this confederation. "Getting into the AFC remains one of the best things to happen for Australian football in the last couple of decades: it's challenging but it's a great place for us to test our wares." Gallop's remarks came after Postecoglou came under strong criticism from former Socceroos Mark Bosnich and Robbie Slater immediately following Tuesday night's frustrating narrow 2-1 result against the Thais in Melbourne. However other former Socceroos have subsequently leapt to Postecoglou's defence including John Aloisi and Stan Lazaridis. Lazaridis told The World Game, "Ange is one of us, an Australian. He's different to previous managers who do the job here and then go back to their 60-foot yachts somewhere off the south of France. "He cares ... you can see he's hurting right now and is gutted. "He will protect his players, that's just the way he is. He puts his b***s on the line. He is brave and he backs young players. "I'm not having a go at them, we have some really good players, but if you look at the 23 we have now and those of the so-called golden generation, it's vastly different. "We just have to now go out and do it the hard way. The most important thing is we should be rallying around and not criticising Ange. "People should save their opinions until after this campaign is over. Otherwise, it's a case of what do you want to do now? Sack the guy? Then bring in someone else just for a few games? For me, absolutely not. "We all need to be on board and to back Ange. I am still very confident of us going through. "I have booked out next June and July in my calendar. It's going to happen." Greens looking to make it two out of three championships GEORGE STOGIANNOU Minor premiers have found it difficult to reproduce their season success in the NPL finals. Since the NPL finals system was introduced in 2015 in Victoria, the minor premier has yet to go on and win the grand final in the same season. South fell on the last day of the season in 2015 against the Bentleigh Greens, and last year the Greens didn't even contest the grand final after winning the minor premiership. This Sunday Heidelberg United will be the third team to try and complete the coveted minor premiership and NPL Championship double. In fact, the Bergers will be aiming for the treble having already picked up the Dockerty Cup and minor premiership trophies this season. Standing in their way will be Bentleigh Greens, the team they defeated in the Dockerty Cup final which went to penalties after both teams were locked at 1-1 after extra time. The Greens have several players who have been there and done that, winning the grand final two seasons ago. One of those players is midfield tyro Tyson Holmes. Holmes agrees that it's fair to say the Greens will go into Sunday's final as the underdog. Speaking to Neos Kosmos on the eve of the final, Holmes said, "The ladder and stats don't lie. They've beaten us three times this year if we're realistic about it. But we're confident in our abilities and what we want to achieve on Sunday. And I think Heidelberg will agree, what's happened throughout the season Heidelberg United’s Josh Wilkins and Bentleigh Greens’ Tyson Holmes get close and personal with the NPL Championship trophy. PHOTO: FFV means for nothing on Sunday. (Heidelberg won the home and away matches against the Greens 3-0 and 4-2 this season). It's going to come down to on the day. That's what we're focusing on at the moment. Not worrying about what happened in the past, so we're dealing with what's going to happen on Sunday." Holmes believes the Bergers' biggest threat is their physicality and their size, which can also make them particularly dangerous at set pieces. "They are a very physical team. They tend to be very direct and they play to their strength which is their physicality and height in some ways as well. That's their strengths and they've stuck by it all year, and its worked well for them. They've had a great year to be fair to them. So I think they'll stick to their guns and what they know and we'll try and rectify that." Heidelberg United's Golden Boot winner Kenny Athiu has scored four times against the Greens this season. According to Holmes, it would be a miscalculation for the Greens to focus too much on the forward. He says, "Of course Kenny is one of the best strikers in the league but he also sits up and creates a lot of goals for other players as well. So if you're focusing on him too much, the other guys will score. So it's about getting that balance. We respect every player they put out there. We just have to win our individual battles." Holmes will be in the thick of it on Sunday. Following the departure of skipper Wayne Wallace at the end of last season, and the arrival of other players, Holmes has been deployed in a deeper midfield role than his accustomed playmaker role. He believes that the experience has helped him develop into a more rounded player. According to Holmes, coach John Anastasiadis's rotation policy has paid off, and even after a torrid marathon semi against South Melbourne last Friday, the squad is in good shape ahead of Sunday's final. "For the first time in years, we've got a full squad to pick from. So that's never happened at the club. We're in a strong position in terms of personnel. Everyone's feeling fit, fresh and ready to go."
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