No what-ifs for Grand Final combatants

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you… “If” - Rudyard Kipling.

Kipling would have made a fantastic football coach.

He understood what will be crucial on Sunday when the Hyundai A League’s two finest teams face each other in the Championship decider.

This game will be decided by which players handle the big moments best.

Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC have been clear standout this campaign and thoroughly deserve their spot in the finale.

Both teams play with flair, intent and enough defensive discipline to be ballast to their ambition.

Neither fears the other as the brace of 3-3 results in recent encounters suggests.

Graham Arnold and Kevin Muscat have both built teams that believe they can win and play as though it’s their destiny to do so.

For the winner victory will be vindication of their conviction. For the vanquished the pain will be that much more acute as a result. 

"If you can wait and not be tired by waiting…"

These two teams are so evenly matched it may result in a tense, tight arm wrestle early on.

Nobody wants to produce a costly error that might gift their opponent an advantage.

Kosta Barbarouses and Alex Gersbach jostle for the ball in Round 12.

Victory’s attacking troika of Besart Berisha, Kosta Barbarouses and Fahid Ben Khalfallah are capable of producing goals anywhere, anytime.

Similarly Sky Blues trio Mark Janko, Alex Brosque and Chris  Naumoff put on a master-class in the Semi Final against Adelaide United.

Both attacking line-ups will require patience and precision. Opportunities may be scarce but great teams are built on players who make such moments count.

"If you can make one heap of all your winnings and risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss…The bravery to be bold will be crucial."

Muscat likes to see his wide players pushing on and it’s not uncommon to find the likes of Georgieski and Barbarouses deep in the final third.

Similarly, Sydney FC will harness the running power of Bernie Ibini to punish Victory if they’re sloppy in midfield or unwilling to work hard without the ball.

Both teams have built their success on a willingness to take risks. Such fearlessness will be essential on Sunday. 

"If you can dream - and not make dreams your master."

Sometimes it’s the vision of one player to see what others can’t that turns a game on its head.

Gui Finkler’s ability to open a game with an incisive pass has been crucial for Melbourne Victory this campaign.

Finkler celebrates one of his two strikes against the Mariners.

Milos Dimitrijevic is Graham Arnold’s main man in midfield. His passing accuracy this season hovers around 84%.

He treasures his time on the ball and gives the Sky Blues the key to unlocking opposition defences.

It’s crucial to both players that they pick their moment to change the shape of the game on Grand Final Day.

Whilst their creativity is key their ability to be a fulcrum in midfield to maintain tempo is just as vital.

Creativity and reliability in balance is required.

Milos Dimitrijevic

Whichever of the two midfield artists in residence does their best work in Sunday may hold the key to this contest.

Grand Finals are physically and mentally gruelling. Extra time and penalties may come into play.

It’s on days like this that the game takes players to places they’ve never previously been and demands from them more than it ever has.

It will be the team that meets these challenges best that will prevail. Because no player wants to wake up Monday and ask themselves,  "What if...?"