Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Mix 'n' Match

Another Asian qualifying match, another Australian squad.

This time, Graham Arnold has had to deal with a number of considerations; the PR value of a glimpse of the "returning World Cup heroes (TM)", the continuing development of some young A-Leaguers, and, last and evidently least, the need to achieve balance within the squad.

Along with a number of knee-jerk choices (why on earth does Jade North appear in these half-way squads with such monotonous regularity?), there is the utterly bizarre selection of the unavailable Josh Kennedy. Kennedy's inability to play means that there are only two nominal strikers in the squad, a worrying trend considering some of Australia's recent tactical set-ups (some might prefer the term screw-ups).

There are a number of talking points, but I'd like to focus here on something that struck me immediately about the squad. Although there is a strong outfield presence from the A-League, the same three goalkeepers who figured in the World Cup squad are there again. That includes the 33-year-old clanger-merchant Zeljko Kalac, and Ante Covic, who cut a truly mediocre figure in his one Socceroo outing, against Bahrain in February.

Was there really no room for Danny Vukovic?

The young Mariners keeper has been absolutely outstanding this year, and he will almost certainly figure in future Socceroo teams (let alone squads). With neither of Australia's supposed top two keepers likely to be in the hot seat come 2010, surely Vukovic should have been one of the first A-League names on the squad sheet. After all, the matches against Paraguay and Bahrain do not clash with any Young Socceroo commitments.

He gave a timely reminder of his quality in the frantic derby between the Mariners and the Newcastle Jets last Saturday, keeping the quick Newcastle forward line scoreless with some fine saves.

It seems strange that Kalac and Covic have been hauled back from Europe when there's a superb understudy only an hour's flight away.

This is one of my major concerns of the difference between a good coach and a mediocre one. We need someone who is looking ahead at the squad for 2010 like Guus was even at 2006.

It looks like we might be falling back into the trap of just hoping overseas clubs will develop all the players we need just in time for the cup. Poor management. There is more to being a football manager then substitutes and formation.... isn't there?
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