Friday, September 01, 2006
The B Team
If the squad chosen for the match in Sydney constituted the C team, locally-based hopefuls with, in many cases, buckley’s of making a full senior Australian XI, the current bunch is surely the B team. The European second tier, plugging diligently away at English Championship clubs, sitting on the bench in the Premiership, or pursuing their career in the less glamorous continental leagues.
Let me state at the outset, I have no problem whatsoever with the absence of A-League players from the squad. Kuwait is much closer to Europe than Australia, and depriving the A-League of its stars at this stage of the season would not be wise.
It’s a fairly strong squad, with several members of the World Cup 23 included. It would be good to see John Aloisi get some serious game time; he, more than anyone else, was seriously under-used by Guus Hiddink in Germany.
Rather than picking the whole squad apart (apart from commenting that there is not one true full-back in there), I’ll concentrate on a few of the more interesting inclusions:
Jacob Burns. The former Parramatta Power midfielder probably made his move to Europe a little too early; joining Leeds United in the days when they were punching memorably above their weight in the Champions’ League, he was surprisingly thrust into the first team as David O’Leary’s side was hit by injury after injury. Sadly, Burns failed to make a good impression, and has been hacking his way just below the surface of English football since then.
Eastern Europe has been something of a black hole for Australian footballers over the years, but Burns has apparently been impressing at Wisla Krakow. Few Australians will have seen much of him since his inept performances at Leeds; it will be interesting to see him in action once again.
Ljubo Milicevic. Clearly, and quite publicly, disappointed at missing the World Cup squad, Milicevic will probably have another chance to show his wares in the green and gold against Kuwait. I must confess to not quite being convinced by the big defender; his judgement and aerial ability, for mine, does not quite make up for his lack of pace and occasional errors.
Milicevic now has plenty of competition in central defence, with Lucas Neill settling there superbly and Michael Beauchamp coming up fast. A poor showing against Kuwait might see him on the outer for quite some time.
Brett Holman. Perhaps the most surprising omission from the World Cup squad considering his influential cameo against Bahrain, Holman should see some significant game time against Kuwait.
He is a player of a type not all that common in Australian football at the moment: the “second striker”, playing off a front-man, making the little runs around the area, and through the inside channels.
An Aloisi-Holman combination could prove quite fruitful, especially with a driving, quick-passing midfield in behind.
Anyway there's quite a few other players in that squad that will be interesting to watch. Kalac was a notable omission.
Given his age, given his provocative comments about Schwarzer prior to the WC, and most of all given his performance against Croatia, I never want to see that nong in an Oz squad again. Ever.
Would like to see Nick Ward get a bit of a run too, but it probably won't happen.
Can't wait for the game.