By Roger Childs
The 5-1 beating of the Kiwi soccer team by the Mexicans was probably not a big surprise. However it could have been a better result.
The team seemed to have a defeatist mentality from the start and Journalist Sam Worthington was right in predicting that The All Whites will be ultra defensive, particularly early on.
They let the Mexicans come at them from the start but surprisingly kept the home side scoreless for 30 minutes with some fantastic saves by goalie Glen Moss. Unfortunately, there were two soft goals late in the first half and another in the second. There was no Ryan Nelsen to coordinate the defence this time.
Cartoonist Al Nisbet hilariously summed up the likely All Whites approach. He showed all eleven players guarding their goal with two lying full length on top of the others.Why the team spent a lot of time in Los Angeles at sea level, instead of acclimatising to the high altitude in Mexico City (2421m up), is not clear. Playing at a height just short of Mt Taranaki’s summit was always going to be energy sapping.
The outcome was a big defeat and the deficit is not going to be turned around before the sell-out crowd in Wellington. The World Cup dream has ended and the best that can be hoped for is a solid performance from the Kiwi boys at the cake tin.
Fast Ferns flay the Flyers
After being thrashed 4-I by the Australian Diamonds in the recent Constellation Cup series the Kiwi netballers got their revenge in Auckland last week.
The Fast Five series is netball’s equivalent of the rugby sevens and it’s just as exciting. With only five players in a team there is plenty of open space and the ball moves from end to end very quickly. Goals can be worth 1, 2 or 3 depending on where they are netted from.
In a power play quarter the points are doubled and the Ferns Maria Tutaia, is the world’s best at the long shots. Throughout their unbeaten run in the tournament, the Fast Ferns always did well in the power plays and Tutaia potted a number of 6 pointers to sink the Aussie Flyers 56-27 in the final.
All Blacks up for the English?
After the close victory against the French in Paris last weekend, All Black fans are justifiably nervous about the next hurdle. Last year England beat the virus ravaged Kiwis 38-21 and there is no way the 2013 team wants a second defeat in a row to a country which thinks it owns the game.
The French encounter showed up some deficiencies. Against England and Ireland improvements such as these will bring success :
- better scrummaging with the props getting a good shove on and all eight players committing to the task
- loose forwards Read and Messam stepping up and using the tall, athletic Steven Luatua as an impact player in the second half
- Ben Smith showing that he can play well at centre. He must develop a better understanding with the highly experienced Ma’a Nonu. (Oh how we are missing the wonderful Conrad Smith!)
- Aaron Smith spinning the ball out faster and Dan Carter and Israel Dagg rediscovering their best form.
Our strength is our ability to play across the park. Kieran Read sums it up well and hopefully quick passing, going wide and speedy finishing will run the English off their feet. Here’s hoping!
World class women
- Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie were World Women Sailors of the year at the ISAF Awards presented in Oman. The pair were champions in the 470 class at last year’s Olympics and also won this year’s world championships.
- New Zealand’s best current swimmer, Lauren Boyle, grabbed two medals on the second to last night in the FINA World Cup in Beijing. She was second in the 800m and third in the 200m, even though the latter is not her favoured distance.
- The Football Ferns gained a very meritorious 1-1 draw against the world’s top ranked team, the USA, last month. In mid year they had already showed their rising status with wins over Brazil and China.
Djokovic currently the best
The ATP World Tennis Finals are the climax of the men’s tennis season. Only the top eight players are in the draw and after a round-robin in two sections the semi finalists emerge. As expected, the top two seeds Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic met in the final.
Nadal had been a comfortable winner over Federer in his semi final, but seemed overawed by Djokovic. The Serb beat the Spaniard easily 6-3 6-4 for his third tournament victory in a row.
Djokovic’s win was based on
- a stronger serve
- superb placement of shots where he had Nadal running from side to side
- tremendous power in his winners
- incredible fitness so that he was rarely out of position to return the ball
- Nadal making too many uncharacteristic unforced errors.
The next big challenge for the world’s best tennis players, is the Australian Open in January.
Some joy at last for the Black Caps
The first one-dayer against Sri Lanka saw the Kiwis get an unlikely win. The home side made 138 for one when rain intervened. The Duckworth-Lewis formula now applied and the Black Caps had 198 to score off 23 overs.
Tom Latham smashed 86 at the top of the innings but the real hero was Nathan McCullum who blasted 32 not out, with his last four shots bringing 6, 4, 6 and 6.
However after a win, our cricketers often stumble. The big question is: can they continue the good form?