Oceania

It’s been a funny season for the A-League with financial chaos tempered by a record-breaking climax. Robert Forsaith explains

“What a fantastic game, what a fantastic spectacle for the A-League. The game has been crying out for something positive this year.” That was the verdict on the final match of the season from Graham Arnold, the coach whose side Central Coast had just been beaten in a penalty shootout.

A World Cup post-mortem full of recrimination, sulking, blame and self-doubt. Sound familiar? Mike Ticher reports

Picking over the World Cup carcass in Australia is still a fairly new experience, but after the excitement of competing in South Africa the questions remain wearyingly familiar. What are our realistic ambitions? How can we reconcile the interests of the national team with those of overseas-based players and a weak domestic league? What country should the coach come from? And how is Harry’s groin?

Football in New Zealand is being threatened by the demands of the Asian Confederation. Ed Jackson explains

In December, with New Zealand still celebrating World Cup qualification, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced a move which may spell the end of the Wellington Phoenix – the country’s representatives in the Australian-based A-League.

Australia's bid to host the World Cup in 2022 has encountered unprecedented problems, says Mike Ticher

If logic counts for anything on FIFA’s executive committee, Australia will host the 2022 World Cup. It is the obvious candidate on FIFA’s past form, if not its explicit criteria. It has only one serious rival, a fact so far obscured in most of the coverage of its bid. If it does win, it will reinforce the genuinely global nature of the competition; if not, there may be only half a dozen countries outside Europe that can host it in future.

Australia have thrown their hat into the ring to host the 2018 World Cup. Matthew Hall watches the bid process unfold

As 2008 eased into 2009, Frank Lowy’s luxury yacht nudged a course through the Caribbean toward Trinidad & Tobago. Lowy is the 78-year-old chairman of Football Federation Australia and probably the richest man in the country, mainly due to his vast Westfield shopping-centre empire, which reaches across the United States, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. But while Lowy no doubt enjoyed the Caribbean New Year sun, he had another reason for visiting the West Indies. After all, there are worse place to be in December than at home at his Sydney harbourside mansion in summer.

A-League clubs are allowed one star signing and Juninho has joined Sydney FC. But, asks Mike Ticher, does the Brazilian have what it takes to match the achievements of his predecessor, Dwight Yorke?

In 1975 the Australian leg-spinner Kerry O’Keeffe arrived in Blackburn for a season as the professional for East Lancs in the Lancashire League. All he heard on his first night there was how brilliant he would have to be to emulate a long list of predecessors – each one ticked off with a resounding: “He were a good ’un.”

It's more than a question of semantics down under, writes Matthew Hall

This has been a long hot summer for Australian soccer fans. Sorry – football fans. The wording is important. Australia kicked off 2005 with the Australian Soccer Association changing its name to Football Federation Australia and decreeing that the game will be officially referred to by its proper name rather than soccer.

Double-figure drubbings are out (almost) and shocks are in. Matthew Hall reports on how the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu upset the odds in the South Pacific qualifiers

The cliche says that if it’s 31-0 then this must be the Oceania Football Confederation’s World Cup qual­ifying competition but, thankfully, OFC took heed of record-breaking scores four years ago. A three-phase tournament now saves teams such as American Samoa the embarrassment of massive drubbings against Australia – in 2001, the Samoans actually did watch 31 goals go past their goalkeeper.

Sepp Blatter is promising Oceania automatic entry to the World Cup, again. Matthew Hall thinks this time he may actually come up with the goods

To be or not to be? That’s the question for the Oceania Football Confederation as FIFA promises the qualifying process for the 2006 World Cup will be decided in Madrid this December. The proposal, from none other than the president Sepp Blatter, is that Oceania takes the guaranteed qualifying place freed up by the decision that the holders will no longer qualify auto­matically for future World Cups.

Desperate Australian clubs are once again queuing up to employ faded British strikers. Matthew Hall explains why

It can no longer be ignored. Relations between Britain and Australia have sunk to a new low and it’s nothing to do with trade wars or our flawed bid to become a republic. It is, however, all to do with current rates of exchange. It goes a little like this: we send you Nick Cave, saucy soap starlets and Harry Kewell. What do we get in return? Hale and Pace, backpackers by the planeload, and Ian bleedin’ Rush.

Sign up to the WSC Weekly Howl - a small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday