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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 12 May 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 12 MAY 2018 27 SPORT Kingston, Port, Northcote, and Greens reach Cup quarterfinals GEORGE STOGIANNOU Kingston City, Northcote City, and Port Melbourne Sharks are each within one win of qualifying for the national round of 32 of the FFA Cup for the first time, following mid-week wins in their Rd 6 FFA Cup qualifying matches. Bentleigh Greens are also still in the running for the Round of 32 for the fourth time in the five seasons of the competition. Last Tuesday, Kingston City probably had the toughest Rd 6 qualifying match, taking on NPL neighbour Oakleigh Cannons at Jack Edwards Reserve. But they scored a confidence-boosting 2-1 win to eliminate the Cannons and progress to the quarterfinals. Young Kingston striker Damian Iaconis stunned the home team with an excellent 25-metre free kick in the first half before the Cannons' long range specialist Dean Piemonte equalised with a left foot strike of his own from outside the box. The deciding goal fell to Kingston when it picked off an errant Oakleigh pass out of defence. The Cannons defence was caught flat-footed by the subsequent Kingston raid down the left flank which produced a cross into the box which found Keanu Moore, ahead of an onrushing Oakleigh keeper John Honos. Morre's tap- in past Honos knocked the Cannons out of the cup. At Port Melbourne's JL Murphy Reserve, the Sharks triumphed 2-0 over State League club Whittlesea United, but not before a few scares. The Sharks had to wait till first half injury time to find the net and only then through a Sam Smith penalty. Shark fans then had to wait anxiously until the 86th-minute when James Papadimitriou volleyed home a cross to seal the result and ensure passage to the quarterfinals. At John Cain Memorial Reserve, Northcote City emerged 1-0 winners from a tight tussle with visiting NPL 2 club Murray United thanks to Lucas Derrick's 55th-minute winner. Derrick scored after a 40-metre pass over the top from the Northcote half put him in space behind the Murray back four, with just the keeper to beat. Tempers frayed towards the end as Northcote defender Paul Swithenbank and Murray forward Zac Walker both received red cards. Bentleigh Greens had already qualified for the Rd 7 quarterfinals with a 3-1 win away to Goulburn Valley Suns the previous week. Kingston, Northcote, Port, and the Greens will find out who they meet in the quarterfinals when the Rd 7 draw takes place on Monday. Attica captain returns ‘home’ to play in historic Balkan Super League game STUART MCLENNAN When Attica Rhinos rugby league team captain Johny Nake entered the field against RC Tirana in Albania last weekend he could have been excused for having mixed emotions. As the leader of his team he wanted to ensure they played well and secured victory but there was an extra sense of excitement and pride attached to this particular match. The Athens-based Rhinos were creating history as the first Greek team to play a match in the Balkan Super League – an elite club competition for the Balkan countries – and to top it off it was happening in the country of his birth. The tenacious halfback was born in the Albanian town of Korca close to the Greek border. Nake moved to Athens with his family in the early 1990s at the age of six. After discovering the game of rugby league in 2013 at the age of 23 in Athens, Johny has never looked back, representing the national team of his adopted country on numerous occasions. "It never crossed my mind that I would one day be playing a game back in Albania when I first started playing rugby league in Athens. "They (Albania) have done a great job establishing rugby league here in such a short space of time and making the game grow even more in the Balkans. "I have been fascinated and no mixed feelings about me being Albanian and playing against an Albanian team. "My job was clear, we had to win this game and I did everything I could to achieve that aim because I'm a Rhino," explained Nake. excited by the idea of playing rugby league in my birth country leading in to this match. It was an extra motivator to be honest. It has been a special event in life for me." The Attica Rhinos endured a 12-hour bus journey from Athens to the Albanian capital the day before the match, a fact of life for rugby league players in Greece where the game is in relative infancy having commenced in 2012. Rhinos head coach Steph Siozos doesn't believe the arduous trip had a negative effect on the players performance on the field. "I don't believe the ride there impacted on our game. I think they could literally have walked there and still put in a big performance such was their eagerness to compete. "It was an honour to take part in this fantastic concept and even more so given we are the first team from the national Greek competition to do so. I'm quite elated myself but more so for the players who got to show their worth on a multinational stage. The travelling brings them closer as a playing group so it's great." The result after a hard fought contest was a narrow victory to the Attica Rhinos by 24-20 before a large vocal crowd. The interest in the game was boosted by the extensive Albanian media coverage during the week. It was a momentous occasion for Albania and the Tirana team having only commenced playing competitive rugby league in April this year. Greek Rugby League Association president George Stilianos travelled to Albania with the team and described it as "an unreal experience, an amazing atmosphere at the game and top notch hospitality from the hosts. You couldn't ask for more," Stilianos said. Nake left the field a happy man, content in the knowledge that he had achieved what he set out to do. "For me playing rugby league in my home country was unbelievably awesome. The crowd was amazing, the hospitality was amazing, everything was truly amazing but there were Speaking to Steph Siozos at the conclusion of the match, it was obvious that he was both relieved to get the victory and elated by his team's performance in the face of adversity. "Each and every player out there put on a mammoth effort as we were short some players from the outset. We only had one substitute and one player was injured early so they showed tremendous resolve to overcome some huge obstacles. "Johny was instrumental in today's win. If he had grown up in Australia I'm sure he'd be NRL material. I hold this little bloke in the highest regard. Both on and off the field. He's just got it." The Balkan Super League (BSL) is in its second year of existence with 15 club sides from seven countries across south eastern Europe battling for the title. Two other Greek teams will commence their campaigns in the BSL shortly. Last year's Greek domestic competition champions Rhodes Knights face Serbian super club Red Star in Belgrade on 15 May. The Aris Eagles (Athens) are set to take on reigning BSL champions Partizan in the Serbian capital a few days later on 19 May. How Greece can still be represented at the 2018 World Cup Greece may not have qualified for the 2018 World Cup, but with Socceroos coach Bert van Marwijk choosing four Greek Australians in his 32-player preliminary squad there could still be a Hellenic flavour in Russia CON STAMOCOSTAS While James Troisi, Alex Gersbach, Apostolos Giannou, and Dimi Petratos will be excited that Van Marwijk chose them in his preliminary squad, they face an anxious wait to see if they make the final cut for Russia. The Dutchman will reduce the preliminary squad from 32 to 26 players this coming week, prior to their arrival in Turkey for their pre-tournament training camp which starts next Saturday. The Socceroos play the Czech Republic in Austria on Friday 1 June and van Marwijk will then announce the final 23-player squad to compete at the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Sunday 3 June. With 37 caps for Australia, Melbourne Victory midfielder Troisi is the more experienced of the four and looks like one of the frontrunners to make the final squad. Born to an Italian father and a Greek mother, the 29-yearold played two games at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and featured in eight matches for the Socceroos during the 2018 Asian qualifiers. Van Marwijk chose Troi- si for the Socceroos squad that played in two friendlies against Norway and Colombia earlier in the year and he was also a prominent member of Melbourne Victory's 2017–18 Grand Final winning team. Petratos also looks like a good bet to make the plane trip to Russia after the Aus- tralian coach singled out the 25-year-old when he announced the squad – specifically referencing the Jets star's versatility. "Everybody saw the game on Saturday (A-League Grand Final) and sees the potential of Petratos, and I think he is a very good player," van Marwijk said. Van Marwijk gave Petratos and his ex-Newcastle teammate Andrew Nabbout their Socceroos debuts in the friendlies against Norway and Colombia and the duo seem to have made an impression. "They have qualities I like," he said. "Petratos can play on the left side and the right side and he can play in the number 10 position. They are fast, and they are technically good, and they can score goals. They are both introverted players, but I like them." One of the surprises of the squad was striker Giannou who hasn't featured for the Socceroos since October 2016. After struggling for game time with Chinese club Guangzhou, the 28-year-old has found form at the right time after he moved to the Cypriot First Division midway through the season. The 185cm tall striker has been a consistent figure for AEK Larnaca, helping them to the Cypriot Cup Final and the five capped Socceroo may have done enough to impress van Marwijk to secure a World Cup spot. However, with Tim Cahill, Tomi Juric, Jamie Maclaren, and Nikita Rukavytsya also vying for the striking positions, van Marwijk acknowledged he has a tough decision to make. "I am 100 per cent sure about one or two strikers and I will not nominate five or six strikers," he said. "You are talking about strikers, but you are talking about different styles. Juric and Giannou they are very big strikers, who you can play the ball to and they can keep it and have the other players come around. You also have strikers who are very fast and both strikers you sometimes need. I like playing with fast players, especially offensive but the players have to fit together. Normally you will not nominate only three very big strikers so then you have to make up the difference between a big striker and a fast striker." After playing for Australia at last year's FIFA Confederations Cup, Gersbach looked to have secured his spot in the Socceroos squad. But after being out of favour at his Norwegian club Rosenborg the 20-year-old dropped down the pecking order. Needing regular game time, Gersbach moved to French club Lens in January and the move seems to have paid off. After playing 13 games to finish off the season, the left back has recaptured the form that saw him earn four caps for the Socceroos and he could also be on his way to the 2018 World Cup.
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