A-League finals format adds element of surprise
The FFA’s decision to scrap the major and minor semi-final ties in the A-League finals revamp will create a much-needed element of surprise come grand final day.
Because the A-League grand final match has been overdone.
The original finals format had the first and second ranked teams playing each other home and away over the first two weeks of the finals, with the team which won the tie earning a week off and hosting the grand final.
The grand final match up, therefore, may be played three times in four weeks, with one of the matches ultimately a dress rehearsal for the flagship event. This format only led to one outcome: predictability.
Since the A-League era, Australia’s premier football competition has had five of its eight grand finals feature the sides that finished in the top two at the end of the regular season. Of those five grand-final matches, the home side won four of them.
Home ground advantage is a huge asset in modern day sport. A large crowd behind the home side can boost their confidence while it can play on the nerves of the opposition in such a pressured spectacle.
With such an important stipulation on the line, both teams must win the tie. The two teams cannot afford to rest any players or leave any tricks up their sleave.
The team who wins the tie has a psychological advantage over their opposition. Sydney FC in 2009/10 was the only side to overturn a major semi-final loss into a grand final victory.
But on the construction of 2012/13 A-League draw, the FFA has shortened the finals series by scrapping the home and away ties of the semi-final and reverting to a weekly knockout system.
This new three-week competition has the first and second placed teams both earning rests in the first week of the finals.
The bottom four sides in the top six will play knockouts with the two winners of the four teams booking preliminary finals against the top two sides.
This new format provides a better entertaining and unpredictable style of A-League finals football. Why? There are no second chances.
Every team has to be on their game and win all their games. In the old format, both the first and second ranked teams could afford to lose one of their legs and still progress to the next stage of the finals.
Every fan will be on a knife’s edge for the 90 minutes as their team could be going home.
The knockout system has the best two teams playing one less match than the remaining participants. The break gives players an extra week to recover from niggling injuries.
And the shortened schedule means players are less likely to receive multiple bookings and potentially miss the biggest game of the season.
But the biggest positive of this new format is that the top two teams will play each other once.
No psychological advantage; no premature premiership match-up; and no idea who is going to win.
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