Mile Jedinak’s first international goal for Australia could not have come at a better time when the Socceroos got a valuable and deserving 1-1 with fellow Asian Cup heavyweight, Korea Republic in their Group C clash on Saturday morning. But Socceroos’ coach, Holger Osieck could have some selection nightmares ahead of the Bahrain clash and beyond…..
1. A unique and “un-Asian” style. Whilst the Socceroos lack the pace, fluency and technique of many of the other teams at the Asian Cup, the team’s never say die attitude, discipline and physical strengths may well give opposing teams headaches when attempting to break down this Australian side. Jedinak’s equalising goal epitomised the Australian style – Lucas Neill was quick to float a ball across the face of goal from a Luke Wilkshire cross and Jedinak had no right to challenge Korean goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong for a high ball but did and impressively beat him to it.
2. Mark Schwarzer. Australia possesses the tournament’s best goalkeeper and Schwarzer played a fitting part in the match, saving superbly late on.
1. Too predictable, too slow and an inept passing game. Like the India game, the Socceroos, unlike the Koreans, played a long ball game in preference to a short and quick passing one. The Aussie tactic of crossing towards Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell at every opportunity was clear once again and one wonders whether such a tactic will reap rewards against a more organised and disciplined defence. Further, the Koreans’ pass and move groove clearly rattled the Aussies, as evidenced by the number of fouls, particularly Jedinak and Ognenovski, committed. Finally, the Aussies’ passing and cheap turnovers left a lot to be desired at times.
2. Poor defending. Football is one of those rare games where one defensive lapse can be the difference between success and failure. Whilst the Socceroos’ defending was excellent for a majority of the game, just how five Socceroos’ defenders let Ji Dong-Wong gain possession and cut back to an unmarked Koo Ja-Cheol for Korea’s goal still baffles and frustrates me. This was the second defensive lapse in two games. Whilst the Indians failed to capitalise last week, the Koreans didn’t. Nor will the likes of Iran and/or Uzbekistan (future potential opponents for the Aussies in the Asian Cup).
1. Injuries to three first team regulars – Jason Culina, David Carney and Luke Wilksire. I have regularly been vocal about the Aussies’ lack of squad depth….the three aforementioned players will be hard to replace if the diagnosis isn’t favourable. Whilst Valeri is a straight swap for Culina, he lacks his experience. Of greater concern are the full back positions – Carney (a left winger by trade) has become custodian of the left back position by virtue of a lack of competition and options for that berth, whilst Wilkshire, is in my opinion, Australia’s second best and most consistent outfield player. Second only to Tim Cahill…..Osieck may be forced to re-shuffle and moreover, test the mettle of his pack.
2. Harry Kewell’s (constant) whingeing. Once again, it was refreshing to see a fully fit Kewell get the better of his opposing defenders. His whingeing with fellow teammates, opposing players and officials was however, disappointing. This was not the first time Kewell has brought this ugly side into his game (read: harassing and “touching up” the match officials after Australia’s group game against Brazil at the 2006 World Cup and his verbal tirade against the referee after being controversially, but correctly sent off against Ghana at last year’s World Cup). Kewell is a professional footballer first, an underwear model second. He should start acting more like the former and stop dicking around.
All in all, Australia will now fancy its chances to progress to the knockout rounds of the Asian Cup, knowing all but a loss against Bahrain tomorrow morning will be enough to see them through.
But the Asian Cup is to Australia, what the World Cup is to heavyweights Brazil, Germany and Italy. Qualifying for the knockout rounds should be viewed as a mere formality. Not reaching the semi finals would be deemed a failure.
This is when the real tournament starts.
Mark “The F word” Fiorenti