“A week is a long time in football” – author unknown.
The Socceroos are in pole position to advance to the next and final phase of Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
But not without making a meal of beating lowly ranked Thailand 2-1 in their first qualifying match!
Australia’s performance against Thailand was plain awful and the cause of great distress.
During the Asian Cup, “The ‘F’ Word” lamented the Socceroos’ use of the “long ball” route to goal which led to nothing at times and the players’ apparent arrogance against inferior opposition. Those lessons had clearly not been learned…
Down 1-0 at half time the Socceroos appeared unimaginative and one dimensional in their path to goal. Midfielders Carl Valeri and Neil Kilkenny appeared slow and static and the hopeful strategy of having strikers Josh Kennedy and Tim Cahill getting their heads on the end of a cross or long ball (which were generally woeful) was predictable and constituted anti-football. The Thais, missing a number of their first choice players, were threatening a major upset that was only averted by a second half equaliser from Kennedy and a late, lucky winner from Alex Brosque who found the net after being served by Kennedy, who suspiciously used his arm to deliver the assist.
In short, the performance provided more questions than answers. Socceroos coach, Holger Osieck himself conceded that one of the few good things to come out of game was the result. A much sterner test awaited the team in the shape of Saudi Arabia in the city of Dammam on Wednesday morning…
Saudi Arabia 1 Australia 3
Al-Shamrani (65’) Kennedy (40’), Kennedy (56’) and Wilkshire (77’)
Now that was a better performance from the team!
The Socceroos appeared more cohesive against Saudi Arabia than the team that played against Thailand and played with more purpose and less arrogance amid the desert heat. Gone were the futile long balls and slow transition from defence to attack and in came a composed, passing game whereby the players were able to dictate the tempo of the match from start to finish.
Nowhere was the difference more evident than on the right flank. Against the Thais, Luke Wilkshere and Brett Emerton looked more out of place than the writer at an anti-donut rally. Against Frank Rijkaard’s men however, the duo had more chemistry than “The Curiosity Show”. Their movement stretched the Saudis, forcing them to take a reactive approach.
Osieck too, bravely rung the changes and ought to be commended for doing so. He dropped Cahill and Kilkenny, who were ineffective against Thailand and replaced the inexperienced Matthew Spiranovic with the more assured Sasa Ognenovski. The tinkering meant Mile Jedinak won back his defensive midfielder’s spot, Matt McKay slotted back into his preferred playmaking role in midfield making way for the fresh and exciting Michael Zullo at left back and Brett Holman played in “the hole” (ie between midfield and defence).
With six points in the bag, yesterday’s B grade actors beginning to look more accustomed to the big stage and a producer who is able to guide them there, the Socceroos are now in an almost impregnable position to march into the final round of qualification.
I only hope they show us more beauty and less beast on their way there.
The “F” word