Velaphi concentrating on team success

Perth Glory goalkeeper Tando Velaphi believes team success will be his main focus, rather than individual glory, if he gets the nod between the sticks in Australia’s opening Olympic Games clash against Serbia on August 7.

Perth Glory goalkeeper Tando Velaphi believes team success will be his main focus, rather than individual glory, if he gets the nod between the sticks in Australia-s opening Olympic Games clash against Serbia on August 7.

The 21-year-old shot-stopper knows the Olympics can be a terrific opportunity or springboard to further his career, but believes that will only come if the team is successful at the Games.

“It-s obviously a massive tournament for everyone,” Velaphi said from the team-s hotel in Kobe, Japan. “There is going to be people watching; it-s the second biggest event behind the World Cup in football, so it-s a massive tournament for everyone.

“You can-t really look at these things individually; for yourself; you have to look at it as a team thing. If our teams successful, I am sure each of us will go onto bigger and better things. I think team success is the main thing we are looking at the moment.”

Before Velaphi can think about that though, he knows he has a tough fight on his hands to get the job in between the sticks, with Reading FC keeper Adam Federici arriving in camp with the squad in Japan yesterday, where the team is continuing preparations for the games.

“Goalkeeper is one of those positions where there is only spot available each week and Fedder-s (Adam Federici) is a great goalkeeper and its going to be tough to get a place in front of him.

“We-ll just have to train hard and whoever ends up playing, we-ll support each other 100% to make sure the teams successful.”

For either keeper it-s a fairly difficult situation, given neither played a game in the qualifiers, with Danny Vukovic-s Olympics suspension providing the opportunity for either one of them to step into the spotlight.

Velaphi has stood in admirably for Vukovic, but Federici, who has yet to play a game for the Qantas Under 23-s, has trained with the Socceroos and played in several FA Cup matches against Manchester United for Reading and offers a significant challenge for the starting spot.

Whoever wins the position will obviously feel a hint of sympathy for Vukovic, but at the same time relish the chance on the big stage.

“It-s obviously been a tough time for all the boys, not just myself,” when asked how difficult its been with the appeals process surrounding Danny-s suspension. “Danny was a massive part of our Olyroos squad and one of the main reasons why we made it to the Olympics.

“For him to miss out was very disappointing, but at the same time it has sort of opened up an opportunity for myself, so it-s like a bitter-sweet moment. I am happy to be in the squad and I think the squad we have now can be successful.

“Obviously you want to play well for your country every time you get the opportunity. I was involved with the squad from the very first qualifying games, so I know the team structure and the general ideas, so it made it a bit easier to slot into the team.

“At the same time we have come Fedder-s there, who is a great goalkeeper; it-s not going to be easy any time you play for Australia, but you want to play your best every time you put on the jersey.”

The last five days has been a tough schedule on the boys, with extensive travel, plus a game against China thrown in for good measure. But Velaphi revealed that was all part of the detailed planning that has gone into this final preparation for the finals that start in less than three weeks time.

“Everyone is a little bit tired, but that is what we are going to be up against in the Olympics,” he said. “That is one of the main reasons why the coaching staff decided to do that. We have our first two games in Shanghai and then we travel to Tianjin and there is only a three-day turnaround between the second and third games.

“The coaching staff wanted to put us under those conditions, so we would be ready for the last game against the Ivory Coast.

“It-s really important that we are fit, especially in these conditions. Even in the Darwin camp and the last camp before New Zealand we worked pretty hard and even in this camp we are training and running our backsides off to make sure we are going to be flying for the first game against Serbia.”

Asked how he felt about the challenge of getting through what has been dubbed the ‘Group of Death-, Velaphi was confident everything has been done right to get them ready for this tournament.

“I think the preparation has been perfect,” he said. “We-ve had some tough training sessions, some easier ones and then a game and then a couple of days in between. All the way up to the Olympics that-s how it-s going to be and in the last few days will we taper off before we play Serbia.

“All up we would have played 14 or 15 games since we qualified for the Olympics, so I think that is just about right.

“We-ve been faced with challenges all throughout the Olympic qualifying games; we-ve been put in some pretty tough conditions; freezing cold and really hot weather in differing countries, so its just another big challenge.

“They-re good teams (Olympic opponents), but we-ve come well prepared, so I think we-ll give it our best shot and give every team a run for our money.”

In the 1-0 loss to China last Sunday, Velaphi came up against the Adidas balls the team will have to play with in China and concurred with Kristian Sarkies assessment prior to the game that it could difficult for the keepers at the tournament.

“We trained with it the other day actually and we only had two days to get used to the ball before the China game; hitting some volleys and shots. The ball dipped and moved all over the place, so it was difficult in that sense.

“But you know you have just got to deal with it and make the right decisions at the right time. It-s going to be happening for both teams, so it will be difficult for whoever plays for Australia and the opposing teams as well, so hopefully we can take advantage of that against other sides and either Adam or myself can do our job.”

Velaphi said the loss to China was disappointing but not totally unexpected given the traveling and conditions they faced, not to mention a good Chinese side that is determined to do well at the Olympics after failing to qualify for the next phase of the World Cup qualifiers.

He is confident though they will be better for the run and will be up for the Japan game on Thursday.

“It was okay; as a team we probably didn-t play our best football. You can call it an excuse, but we travelled and we had to adjust to the conditions, so we might have been a little bit flat. We would rather it happened now then at the Olympics and it wasn-t our best performance but we know we can produce better, so all signs are positive.

“Japan is another quality outfit we are up against. The conditions will be a bit hotter than they were in China, so that-s another factor we have to consider, but we got here last night (Monday), so we-ve had a full day and tomorrow to prepare, so I think we-ll be in good shape.”