FFA denies player rift with Verbeek

Pim VerbeekAS BORED journalists fire up the predictable rumours of a split in the Socceroos’ camp, midfield enforcer Vince Grella has a typically forthright message to his teammates on how to deal with the tension: ”Be a man about it.”
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After being routed and humiliated by Germany in Durban, Australia’s World Cup hopes – not to mention the reputations of coach Pim Verbeek and his players – go on the line against Ghana in Rustenburg on Saturday night. Anything less than a win and the Socceroos will be heading home into a firestorm of recriminations.

Fact is, there is no split in the camp – only a coach looking into the mirror for the first time, and a group of players dealing with bruised egos. But there’s little doubt the team is under pressure, and it’s how they deal with it that matters.

Be a man … midfielder Vince Grella attempts to tackle Germany’s Thomas Muller in Durban. Photo: Steve Christo

Reports on Wednesday indicated there was a rift between Verbeek and a group of players, including Harry Kewell, Mark Bresciano and Grella. The players had allegedly complained to FFA about Verbeek’s selections and tactics. But the FFA has denied the rumours and said Kewell in particular was upset at the reports.

Grella, hooked at half-time against the Germans as Verbeek essentially admitted he had got his tactics wrong, has never been one to hide from responsibility.

”We’ve all got to be men about it, forget the bullshit and get on with it,” he said. ”Of course we can turn it around. That’s the beauty of football, and that’s what we’ve got to look to do. We have to fix the wounds and play a massive game against Ghana. If your maths is as good as mine, we can still get six points, and then we go through. Simple.”

Pressed on Verbeek’s surprise tactical switch against Germany, Grella replied: ”Hindsight is an easy thing. Whether the players were OK with it or not, it’s the manager’s call. We follow the game plan the coach’s put out there, and we have to respect his decision.”

While Verbeek hasn’t conceded he got his tactics wrong against the Germans – it was the first time he had started with a 4-4-2 structure since his first game in charge 2½⁄ years ago – there’s little doubt he will revert to his usual 4-2-3-1 against Ghana.

But while the formation will be familiar, the personnel might not be. Grella is one of several senior players under scrutiny, and for the first time the shadow players are applying genuine selection pressure.

Three regular starters unused against Germany – Josh Kennedy, Mark Bresciano and Harry Kewell – are also clamouring for a recall but it’s the so-called ”second-tier” players, among them Brett Holman, Mark Milligan and Mile Jedinak, who are leading the charge. With no margin for error, the media tasting blood and disillusioned fans agitating behind the scenes, the heat is on Verbeek to get it right.

Defender Luke Wilkshire, one of the few to emerge with any credit in Durban, is convinced the team can turn it around.

”We’ve definitely got the character in the team and the spirit,” he said. ”We know that we can do better. We know there’s a possibility there, and we’re going to be fighting to the end.”

Midfielder Brett Emerton, who also had a good game, added: ”I still feel we’ve got a good team but for some reason against Germany we weren’t at it. That’s football. The best thing we can do is try and forget about it, learn from our mistakes and try to improve on that next time.”

Cranky Harry slams media

A livid Harry Kewell hoped to confront Michael Cockerill at Socceroos training following an article the Fairfax football writer wrote criticising the striker’s commitment.
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Socceroo Harry Kewell slammed media criticism of his role in the team, lashing critics who have questioned his fitness and recent performances and claiming that suggestions of a rift between Australia’s star player and coach Pim Verbeek were a fabrication.

Kewell was in a combative mood as he arrived for training last night, demanding that Fairfax football writer Mike Cockerill – who was not present – show himself.

Cockerill had written a column questioning Kewell’s fitness and commitment and the Galatasaray player – who has been recovering from a groin injury and did not play in the humiliating loss to Germany last Sunday – was desperate to fire back.

“Why isn’t he here?” Kewell said. “He’s the one making all these accusations. I want him to know about it. I want to know why is he doing it?”

“Does anyone have any answers for me?”

The Socceroos looked dangerously like a team under siege. Football Federation Australia chief executive Ben Buckley had earlier called a press conference to deny rumours of a rift between senior players Kewell and Mark Bresciano and the coach. An open training session at Ruimsig Stadium was abruptly changed to a closed one.

Neither Kewell nor Bresciano played a single minute in Durban as the team chosen by Verbeek was humbled by Germany.

Kewell also denied any rift between players and coach but admitted he had been disappointed not to at least be given minutes off the bench against Germany.

“Of course I was disappointed,” he said. “But that’s the manager’s choice. He had a plan and stuck with it. We all agreed to it. And it’s unfortunate that we lost.”

Kewell said he was fit and ready to play on Saturday against Ghana and accused reporters of “slagging off” himself and the team’s medical staff who have battled to get him fit for World Cup duty.

“It’s a shame,” he said. “Youse are all supposed to be on our team and it’s a shame that youse are all having a go at us.”

Asked if he felt he was under attack, Kewell continued his tirade.

“I think there are people that are just making things up,” he said. “They are just trying to get scoops.”

Kewell has been criticised for not warming up with the rest of the Australian team in Durban, with the suggestion being he could not possibly have been fit to play but incapable of warming up.

“I was told by my physio not to do it, to do my own preparation,” he said. “Again there’s speculation that there is a rift, there is no rift. We are all disappointed in the game… we take it on the chin and we go prove it in the game against Ghana.”

Kewell said he fully supported Verbeek and would live “by his rules”. He said it was not up to him to demand that he play against Ghana in a must-win clash for the Socceroos.

“I don’t think any footballer would ever go up to a manager and say ‘put me on’,” he said. “You can’t do that. It’s his rules and his way. You accept that.”

Livid Kewell demands Fairfax football writer shows himself

A livid Harry Kewell hoped to confront Michael Cockerill at Socceroos training following an article the Fairfax football writer wrote criticising the striker’s commitment.
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Socceroo Harry Kewell slammed media criticism of his role in the team, lashing critics who have questioned his fitness and recent performances and claiming that suggestions of a rift between Australia’s star player and coach Pim Verbeek were a fabrication.

Kewell was in a combative mood as he arrived for training last night, demanding that Fairfax football writer Mike Cockerill – who was not present – show himself.

Cockerill had written a column questioning Kewell’s fitness and commitment and the Galatasaray player – who has been recovering from a groin injury and did not play in the humiliating loss to Germany last Sunday – was desperate to fire back.

“Why isn’t he here?” Kewell said. “He’s the one making all these accusations. I want him to know about it. I want to know why is he doing it?”

“Does anyone have any answers for me?”

The Socceroos looked dangerously like a team under siege. Football Federation Australia chief executive Ben Buckley had earlier called a press conference to deny rumours of a rift between senior players Kewell and Mark Bresciano and the coach. An open training session at Ruimsig Stadium was abruptly changed to a closed one.

Neither Kewell nor Bresciano played a single minute in Durban as the team chosen by Verbeek was humbled by Germany.

Kewell also denied any rift between players and coach but admitted he had been disappointed not to at least be given minutes off the bench against Germany.

“Of course I was disappointed,” he said. “But that’s the manager’s choice. He had a plan and stuck with it. We all agreed to it. And it’s unfortunate that we lost.”

Kewell said he was fit and ready to play on Saturday against Ghana and accused reporters of “slagging off” himself and the team’s medical staff who have battled to get him fit for World Cup duty.

“It’s a shame,” he said. “Youse are all supposed to be on our team and it’s a shame that youse are all having a go at us.”

Asked if he felt he was under attack, Kewell continued his tirade.

“I think there are people that are just making things up,” he said. “They are just trying to get scoops.”

Kewell has been criticised for not warming up with the rest of the Australian team in Durban, with the suggestion being he could not possibly have been fit to play but incapable of warming up.

“I was told by my physio not to do it, to do my own preparation,” he said. “Again there’s speculation that there is a rift, there is no rift. We are all disappointed in the game… we take it on the chin and we go prove it in the game against Ghana.”

Kewell said he fully supported Verbeek and would live “by his rules”. He said it was not up to him to demand that he play against Ghana in a must-win clash for the Socceroos.

“I don’t think any footballer would ever go up to a manager and say ‘put me on’,” he said. “You can’t do that. It’s his rules and his way. You accept that.”

No fuel but it’s plain sailing for solar spacecraft

IT HAS been a busy week for JAXA, the Japanese space agency. While most eyes were on the spectacular return of the Hayabusa asteroid sample probe, which parachuted into the Woomera rocket range on Sunday after the second fastest re-entry in history, another craft was ever-so-slowly picking up speed in the void between Earth and Venus.The experimental spacecraft Ikaros, after many weeks of delicate maneuvering, has successfully deployed the first solar sail. For researchers interested in sending missions into the far reaches of the solar system, Ikaros is a dream come true – a spaceship that doesn’t need fuel to generate thrust.If all goes according to plan, all the heavy work will be done millions of kilometres away, on the sun. All previous spacecraft have had to carry enormous amounts of fuel – the overwhelming bulk on NASA missions to the outer solar system was simply the gas tank and the booster engines, all of which were thrown away once the probes were up to speed, an expensive and inherently wasteful way of getting about.Ikaros needed chemical rockets to escape the Earth’s gravity (it actually piggybacked a ride on the Akatsuki mission, now on its way to study the atmosphere of Venus), but now the sail has been unfurled it will be pushed along by the light of the sun.This is a fragile machine. ”Ikaros has a square sail approximately 14 metres long on each side,” explains Osamu Mori, the project’s leader. ”The sail, and the solar collectors that will generate electricity, are only 7.5 micrometres thick. Human hair is 100 micrometres thick, so you can imaging how thin this is.”Consequently, the unfurling of a sail packed into the confines of a small spacecraft is undertaken with great care. Two previous American attempts, in 2001 and 2005, have failed at this crucial hurdle.The Japanese had the idea of a square sail with a small weight on each corner which was set spinning – very slowly – on a turntable which forms the centre of the vehicle. Eventually centrifugal force stretches the sail into its desired configuration, and the latest word is so far, so good – the sail reached full extension last weekend.Now to the business end – learning how to sail a yacht, millions of kilometres away, using sunlight. How, for instance, do you steer such a vessel? Ikaros incorporates some very clever technology to control direction and speed.”The solar-powered attitude control system uses technology that controls the reflectivity of the sail,” said Mr Mori. ”It works just like frosted glass: normally the entire area of the sail will reflect sunlight, but by ‘frosting’ part of the film, we can reduce the reflectivity of that area. When the reflectivity is reduced, that part of the sail generates less power. So by changing the reflectivity of the sail, we can control its attitude.”So, assuming these subtle changes in reflectivity work as intended, where is Ikaros headed?At first it will travel side by side with the Venus mission, and then head off on its own.”Akatsuki will decelerate to enter Venus’s orbit,” said Mr Mori, ”but Ikaros will pass by Venus and navigate around the sun. Where it heads will really depend on how the solar sail’s orbit control function performs.”Ikaros does not have a destination – as an experimental craft its major objective is is to establish whether solar sailing is feasible at all. But the implications of a successful flight are profound. While sunlight transfers very little propulsion to Ikaros, it never stops doing so, and over time solar sails can, in principle, build up enormous speeds.So if you’re not in a hurry, and want to go a long way without spending a fortune at the bowser, they might be just the ticket. Osamu Mori and his team at JAXA certainly hope so.
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Mexican cash control

CULIACAN, Mexico: In an attempt to thwart money-laundering by drug cartels, the Mexican government has announced strict limits on the deposit and exchange of US dollars in banks.The money helps traffickers buy military-grade weapons used to kill tens of thousands of people and recruit small armies who battle rival gangs and government forces around the country.Failure to intercept the money has long been singled out as a serious flaw in the military-led offensive against the cartels.In response, the government announced it would limit individual bank account holders to deposits of $US4000 ($4650) monthly, while others without accounts would be allowed to exchange up to $US1500.Drug traffickers have long taken advantage of lax rules and the preponderance of cash transactions in Mexico to launder multibillion-dollar annual profits in banks and currency exchange houses. It is routine to see all-cash purchases of real estate, aircraft, farms and art.The new measures were announced by the Finance Minister, Ernesto Cordero, who said they were designed to reduce laundering by ”closing the path to illicit resources” funnelled into Mexican banks. He said about $US10 billion in surplus – and probably illicit – money has been detected annually in the banking system.A recent US-Mexican government report estimated traffickers send between $US19 billion and $US29 billion a year from the US to Mexico, slightly under half via banks. The rest stays in the cash economy; about 75 per cent of all transactions in Mexico are in cash.The measures do not apply to electronic transfers and are not likely to have an effect on average Mexicans, Mr Cordero said, because the monthly limit on dollar transactions is far above the earnings of 98 per cent of Mexican households.Los Angeles Times
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