Let's all get our Friday underway with a hat tip to the Junior All Whites who have seen their World Cup campaign come to an end against Portugal, who won 2-1. I'll let the Wildcard have his moment in the sun and he'll put something up some time today but watching last night's game raised a few thoughts in my ever-expanding mind.
Unfortunately it was clear that the kiwi lads were slightly off the pace, which made that first half incredibly frustrating. Portugal were good but the kiwis were constantly intercepting passes, making key tackles and threading the needle with their own passes which perked you up a bit, got you leaning forward with excitement only for some of the stupidest turn overs you would ever see put you back in your seat.
Had they been out-classed all over the park with no doubt in anyone's mind, then it would have been a different story but we saw the kiwis show that they can hang at this level. Hence why it was pretty frustrating.
Bill Tuiloma deserves a special mention because he's so damn good. Tuiloma has quickly risen through the ranks in France with Marseille and watching him play alongside the other kiwi lads and the best young players puts into perspective just how handy Tuiloma is. I said that the kiwis intercepted plenty of passes, well Tuiloma was responsible for most of them along with plenty of clearing headers/kicks. He's also a great passer of the footy, he almost had an assist in the opening minute and showed his range of passes throughout the game.
Throughout the tournament, Tuiloma has been a pleasure to listen to and his leadership on the field was second to none. He never looked poorly upon teammates, guys who haven't done nearly as much as himself in their football careers, instead he led with his actions and was always there to mop up and spark an attack.
Tuiloma has a long future in an All Whites jersey ahead of him, which got me dreaming of a defensive triangle consisting of Winston Reid, Tommy Smith with Tuiloman playing in front of them. Boom. We've got that to look forward to along with hopefully some more progression with Marseille where Tuiloma played a few games for their top side this season but spent more time with their reserves, helping them earn promotion. It would be something else to see Tuiloma consistently play in Ligue 1, marking Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Monty Patterson was also impressive, hopefully we see him rise through the ranks with Ipswich Town FC.
What also struck me was just how stuck on rugby Aotearoa is. Over the past six months we have hosted the Cricket World Cup and the Under 20 Football World Cup, which have been great events with plenty of support and buzz around town. However, they both have this novelty vibe to them. The Cricket World Cup felt like a shock to the nation with players and supporters celebrating how we all got behind the cricket team, the shock came because that's usually reserved for all things rugby.
It's similar in the Under 20 World Cup with everything being compared to rugby along with 'I thought ya'll just played rugby' type of sentiments.
Rugby's cool, but we are a nation of sport lovers, we just love sport regardless of what sport it is and we are starting to become competitive on the world stage in a variety of sports.
There's an interesting story out of Australia where Cricket NSW may lure/force the England and Wales Cricket Board into a compensation battle over Trevor Bayliss. The freshly appointed England coach was a few months into his new deal with Cricket NSW before taking a better offer in England. Cricke NSW definitely deserve a little something something.
Ricardo Christie is in action in the WSL Fiji Pro today in Heat 5 with Mick Fanning, a veteran Aussie surfer and a local Fijian lad by the name of Aca Ravulo. We've had to wait a few days for the Fiji Pro to get underway so hopefully we get a few solid days of competition for Christie to work his magic.
We've got a big weekend in the '1 outs' sports with Joseph Parker taking on Yakup Saglam and UFC 188 going down. Each time Parker steps into the ring there is an air of expectation as we've constantly seen him easily dispatch of his opponents; is that because he's really good or because his opponents are a bit meh?
Parker's fights have become a bit of a socialite event, somewhere to be seen and the same can be said about aligning yourself with Parker; it's really cool to get a snap with Parker or to show your support on social media. That's cool and it's good for boxing an all everything about it is a bit fluffy, I just want to see Parker venture out into the big bad world of boxing and win.
Which is why this fight is a bit different to previous bouts. Not because of his opponent, every opponent Parker fights has apparently done this or that and is his 'toughest challenge' to date which is built up to sell the fight (yes we've got to pay zzz, or, thanks internet tehe). But Parker has been out in the big bad boxing world, he's been sparring with Vlad Kitschko, he's been venturing upon new pastures so it will be interesting to see how he shapes up after all of that.
Besides offering support for a kiwi boxer, from South Auckland which makes him that much easier to support, I'm kind of over all of this. Go to Vegas bro, get out of the bubble in Aotearoa, tread the difficult path and see what you're made of.
UFC 188 will seethe heavyweight belt on the line with both Cain Velasquez and Frabricio Werdum holding their own version of the belt. Werdum won the belt as Velasquez was out indefinitely with an injury, which means that it's only right for Velasquez to get the chance to defend/win his belt.
The thought of Andrea Pirlo coming down to this part of the world, bringing his footballin' ability to the A-League was a glorious thought. I couldn't think of anyone I'd rather see play in the flesh as Pirlo's passing and positioning in the midfield is a thing of art, but it looks like a distant dream now that it is believed it will cost around $10milly to secure his services.
He's probably worth that much so fair play and I don't think even the 'glamour' clubs of the A-League could put together a package to satisfy Mr Pirlo. Pirlo does have a year to run on his deal with Juve but he's contemplating a move elsewhere, with leagues such as the A-League and the MLS in the USA sending up prayers.
This brings into the spotlight the dilemma of marquee players especially in the A-League. Having this calibre of players is obviously awesome and it's worth the price of admission alone but it kind of only leads to disappointment as the expectations placed on the player are astronomically high. I dunno, I prefer signing guys a tier down, those are the players who always impress the most as they up the quality of play but don't come with the whole sideshow.
NBA game four, this afternoon and the Golden State Warriors need to step up to grab the win as LeBron James and Mathew Dellavedova led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a game three win.
NHL, game four has gone down and the series is tied at 2-2 with the Chicago Blackhawks winning game three 2-1.