Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Both sides went into the game with a positive attitude, there were few nasty tackles, and there were plenty of chances in the course of the evening.
This, of course, was Australia's first friendly international on European soil since the World Cup. During our Oceania incarceration, I would constantly tear my hair out at the lack of European friendlies organised for the team; being in Oceania meant we were always underdone when it came to important competitions (the most exacting of these being, of course, the World Cup playoff). The problem was exacerbated by the failure of successive administrations to organise a solid friendly schedule for our first side.
Now that we have all the problems and opportunities of Asia to deal with, friendly practice suddenly doesn't seem so important.
And the pleasant upshot of this is that we have taken a genuinely positive, adventurous approach to our first Euro friendly of the Asian era.
In the course of Frank Farina's Socceroo reign, inordinate importance was placed on results in friendlies. Understandably so, however, since these were often the only regular opportunities to make a judgement upon Farina's coaching. The Oceania matches were largely jokes, and such competitions as the Confederations Cup and the Olympics were brief flurries of significant activity inamongst an ocean of relative irrelevance.
Because "his" performances in friendlies attracted so much scrutiny, Farina often took what I considered to be a craven approach to friendly matches. Significant in this regard were the two games against Turkey in mid-2004; Farina's tactics were of the damage-control variety, allowing the Turks to dominate the first half in Sydney to an embarrassing degree.
Even in the game against Jamaica a year earlier (which was, inexcusably, one of only three friendlies we played in 2003), Farina appeared content with a 2-1 result once Harry Kewell had scored the Socceroos' second goal. Although more than half an hour remained, he made only one further substitution, five minutes from the close, and it was an unambitious one.
Graham Arnold clearly felt less obliged to protect a result this morning, and the football was much better for it. What's more, the usefulness of the exercise was surely enhanced.
As with the Paraguay game however, there is this big, burning patriot inside me which does just want us to kick arse, and which does, for example, get very frustrated when deliverers like Bresciano are substituted!
But I'm hearing you Mike, and I think I do get the logic of it. And if you're right, it makes Arnold a brave man rather than a klutz.
The doubt should certainly be extirpated, that's for sure. This 'interem coach' business is getting tedious.
After the performance of the first half, I found myself not too concerned if we even ended up losing, and I'd say it's the first time I've ever felt that.
It was an encouraging performance in a number of ways, and well done to Arnie for how he sent us out, but I found Les' suggestions our second string don't 'know the system' to be a bit odd. When you consider we played without Kennedy, Viduka, Kewell, Cahill and Neill, (and Grella for much of the end) I thought we looked pretty bloody good all things considered, even if we did drop off.
Perhaps central defence was a tad shaky at times, but I think we have more depth than we often give credit for, and the first half showed a team missing it's 5 biggest stars can be very competitive.
These friendlies can be sometime taken too lighly. Example was a dreary match between Italy and Turkey this morning. No one seemed to care.
I think one thing the game showed was how much we missed Emerton against Italy (although everyone tends to talk instead about the loss of Kewell). When you think that Italy eventually won thanks to our being caught on the right side of defence...
Wehrmann, on the other hand, was exactly the opposite, showing why he's been in the international wilderness for so long and why he should continue to be. The search for Grella's back up continues, as Wilkshire's technical deficiencies are yet again in view (and yes, I know you're a fan mikey).