“…..the blame no doubt lies with Pim Verbeek and the fearful, naive and nonsensical tactics he employed in that match. Further, Verbeek’s tactics against Germany disarmed the players of their unique and natural cultural qualities, that being their attacking, fighting spirit. Put simply, he did not believe in the players…..(we need) to recruit a new custodian who, unlike Verbeek, understands and is able to harness the cultural qualities of Australia’s players and moreover, believes in them” – The F Word’s musings in a previous blog.
They say time heals all wounds.
But so too does self belief, a willingness to change and a desire to right the wrongs of the past.
When Australia took to the field against Germany at last year’s World Cup the team appeared bereft of ideas, spirit and passion. The 4-0 drubbing always meant the Socceroos would need to play catch up football in their remaining two games to secure qualification to the knockout stages of the World Cup. Despite restoring some pride against Ghana and Serbia, the mountain was insurmountable and early elimination confirmed.
In recent months, the team, and new coach Holger Osieck, have appeared determined to make a point that they were better than their first-round exit at the World Cup. First, an appearance at the final of the AFC Asian Cup in January and now an astonishing come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Germany in their own backyard.
The world’s number three ranked side looked on course to replicate its 4-0 win in Durban as they dominated the first half with their speed, passing and movement on and off the ball and duly went ahead after 26 minutes. But Osieck’s spirited half time team talk sparked the turnaround. He later told Fox Sports, “…I said (to the players) ‘you can do it’….I told them we are Australia, we are somebody and we don’t have to be afraid of them”. The Australian players’ actions mirrored those words as they came out of the dressing-room for the second half with a changed approach and a determination to get back into the contest. Playing the ball on the ground and moving it about with short, crisp passing the Socceroos stunned the hosts with two goals in the 61st and 65th minute, first through David Carney and then a Luke Wilkshire penalty, to claim a first ever win over the European side.
Much will be made of the fact the game was a meaningless friendly and that Germany coach, Joachim Low made a host of changes to the side that beat Kazakhstan 4-0 in its Euro 2012 qualifier last weekend. But given their stature, playing depth and superior head-to-head record, the Germans should have still comfortably beaten the Socceroos. This was still a side that had Lukas Podolski, Thomas Muller, Miroslav Klose and Bastian Schweinsteiger, all of whom started on that fateful day in Durban. Finally, no country, regardless of the importance of the fixture would want to lose a game at home.
The surprising thing was that the overall performance of the Socceroos was not perfect. In truth, the Germans completely controlled the opening period and had the better of the contest until the Socceroos equalised. Further, Mile Jedinak was yet again inefficient and unimaginative in the engine room and gave the ball away too easily, whilst Lucas Neill consistently overlooked the midfield by persistently hoofing the ball forward.
But the fact Australia managed to beat the three-time World champions without playing at its best is a clear indication of how far the team has come as a football nation. The confidence sapped by Pim Verbeek’s complete lack of faith in the players has bounced back under Osieck and the players are beginning to rate themselves again. With the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign fast approaching, I have no doubt the national team is heading in the right direction.
Mark ‘The F Word’ Fiorenti