Saturday 04 June 2016

The football year: From World Cup to Community Shield

Published as ‘High achievers: Geelong’s star performers in the world game’, Geelong Advertiser, Monday 1 January 2007, p. 37.

This was an extraordinary year for the world game of football, with Australia’s first World Cup appearance since 1974, Melbourne Victory drawing the largest crowd to witness a club game in Australia and locally the Community Shield replacing the long running Geelong Advertiser Cup.

Other highlights included stellar individual performances by Geelong players for the Socceroos, Croatia, Melbourne Victory and the Young Socceroos. Josip Skoko scored a brilliant winning goal for the Socceroos against Greece and finally established himself as a first team regular at Wigan Athletic in the English Premier League, and went to the World Cup in Germany with Guus Hiddink’s team. Unfortunately he did not get any game time at the peak tournament, much to the disgust of this writer who thought his precision passing skills were all that was lacking from the Socceroos narrow failure to overcome the eventual champion Italy in the Round of Sixteen in Kaiserslautern.

Joey Didulica had a rollercoaster year, starring with Austria Vienna in the Austrian Bundesliga in the first half of the year and playing for Croatia in warm-up games for the World Cup, only to miss taking the field in the finals as did Josip Skoko, his friend and former team-mate at North Geelong. Needless to say the fact that the Skoko and Didulica families were on opposite sides when the countries met in Germany provided lots of stories for the media around the world, not just in Australia. After the World Cup, Didulica moved to AZ Alkmaar in Holland where he had a series of brilliant performances in goals helping his team to the top of the league until a serious head injury saw him sidelined.

Adrian Leijer continued from where he left off last season as the ever-present player in the Melbourne Victory defence as his team won the home and away A-League with four games to spare. Add to that a call-up to train with the Socceroos prior to the World Cup and selection for the Olyroos for their qualifying tournament next year and the 20-year-old is set to become a major star for Australia in the near future. Another Geelong defender, St Joseph’s College student, Matthew Spiranovic, also turned out in practice matches for Melbourne Victory and played for the Young Socceroos in their unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the Under-20 World Cup. Later in the year he signed a contract to play in the German Bundesliga for FC Nurnberg.

In local senior soccer, North Geelong started strongly but eventually finished fourth in Division One of the State League,  Corio came third, Geelong Rangers fifth and Geelong seventh in Division Three, while Bell Park finally turned the corner with a second place finish and promotion from Division Three of the Provisional League. Much credit goes to coach Eddie Dorris who got the very best out of his squad.

The Western Victoria Soccer Association Women’s team finished as runner-up in Division One of the State League which will mean promotion to the Premier League next season. This is a stunning achievement by the team coached by Tam McCulloch.

A number of Geelong juniors took the first steps on the ladder to representative honours with selection for Victorian Country Region teams which took part the National Talent Identification Championships.

After 25 years of sponsorship by the Geelong Advertiser the local pre-season competition became the Community Shield, but the familiar order was maintained with North Geelong triumphing in the final against Geelong Rangers by five goals to one.

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