Friday, October 13, 2006


The Asia Shift, Part 2

Mark Bresciano’s proposed roster system may seem, on the face of it, an expeditious and appropriate means of dealing with the problem of qualifiers in Asia during the European club season. However, there are a number of reasons why I believe it should not be adopted.

Some of the stronger South American nations, in dealing with their ludicrous 18-match World Cup qualifying schedule, have implemented an ersatz roster system in practice, if not in theory. Significantly, it has produced decidedly “mixed” (read inexplicably poor) results, particularly in the case of Brazil, who so regularly struggle in the qualifiers.

So, what are the problems with the idea?

In short:

1. Continuity

A constantly shifting personnel would make it extremely difficult for a national team coach to develop any sort of cohesion. Some of the criticism of Graham Arnold for his failure to engender any continuity in recent times has been most unjust; it shouldn’t for a moment be forgotten that he has been forced to field an almost entirely different eleven each time. The recent home double-header has been the one exception, but even then the necessity of farewelling the long-service four against Paraguay militated against true continuity.

If a roster system were to be used for the Asian qualifiers, the problem would only become worse.

2. Injuries

Injuries are, sadly, a fact of life, and in a roster system they could make things extremely awkward. If a rostered player is injured, does a non-rostered player from the “first selection” fill the breach…or would that contravene the (perhaps unwritten) agreement that players would be given set rests on set dates? If so, it would probably require a player of lesser calibre to turn out for the national side.

3. Morale

Some away trips in the vast Asian confederation are more challenging than others. Damascus is some five hours’ flight from Europe, Australia is more like twenty-three. Who gets the short trips, and who the long? Who gets the games in 35-degree heat, and who gets the less demanding gigs? How is genuine fairness for all established? How is the inevitable resentment to be managed? It’s a logistical nightmare.

Talking of logistical nightmares, David Lewis described the Socceroos’ Asian qualifying schedule as such in his piece from a few days ago. But here’s a bit that interests me:

The Socceroos, who expect to be seeded after their exploits in Germany, must top a four-nation group to qualify for stage two in 2009 where the top two sides from a four-team group qualifies.

Now, some confederations change their qualifying system from one World Cup cycle to the next. There have apparently been some complaints within the AFC about the sudden-death first stage system employed for the last few World Cup cycles.

Has there actually been an official statement from the AFC that it will be used again? To the best of my knowledge, the confederation allocations for the next World Cup have not even been decided yet. Hence, it seems odd that the AFC would have already rubber-stamped the qualifying system to be used.

Hey Mike, may I ask you a dumb question?

What does it mean that we are 'seeded' in the Asia Cup? I understood that we already 'qualified' before the Bahrain match. But what difference is there between that and our current state of being 'seeded'?
Hamish its like being in Pot A for the world cup in that as we are seeded we won't have to play other seeded sides (The sides which topped there groups). So in the group stage we won't be drawn with countries like Japan.

And mike keep up the good work i love reading your blog.
Thanks Anonymous. Thought it must be something like that, but I appreciate the explanation.
Erm...what anonymous said. :-)

And thanks for the kind comments!
Mikey - what is your view on the selection of Beauchamp? Not as a player but as a player who hasn't been playing? There's grooming the next cab off the rank for the role and then there is this.

Ahmad Elrich for one used to contribute well as an impact winger, but I'm guessing its a different story in central defender.

On the wider scale, like all anxious fans, I suppose I'd just like to understand the plan rather than seeing it as a laissez faire or ad-hoc approach.
...Mikey - what is your view on the selection of Beauchamp? Not as a player but as a player who hasn't been playing? There's grooming the next cab off the rank for the role and then there is this....

Yeah, I was actually going to devote a whole blog piece to the topic. In the last three games I've seen him (v. Kuwait, v. Paraguay if only for a few seconds and v. Bahrain), Beauchamp has looked an absolute lost soul, which is sad when you consider how commanding he was in defence last year, not just for the Mariners but for Oz against Bahrain in February. At least on Wednesday he seemed to be getting back into things towards the end.

It comes back to the issue of international teams relying largely on players getting club game time and confidence as a result. Aurelio in 97...need I say more!
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