Tuesday, June 12, 2007
The Asian Cup Squad
So: the Asian Cup squad.
Not all that many surprises, of course. Graham Arnold has not been exactly daring in his selections thus far, and no one expected him to pull a late rabbit out of the hat.
It's good to see that Nick Carle has secured a place, despite his gaffe against Uruguay. Australia possesses so few players capable of turning a game with a single moment of brilliance that Carle, despite his frustrating inconsistency, is well worth a guernsey, if only as a reserve.
The inclusion of David Carney is somewhat more puzzling. He had an excellent first season in the A-League, of course, but the general consensus is surely that the second instalment of the competition showed him up as something of a one-trick pony. He needs to add some subtlety to his game...and he desperately needs to develop some power and/or accuracy in his right foot.
I feel that the lack of a genuine right-winger in the squad (Mile Sterjovski has never really convinced on the right flank) might have made Travis Dodd, who is also useful on the left, a potential bolter for the 23. Instead, he has failed even to make the provisional list, while, predictably, the ubiquitous Jade North is there.
Craig Foster has summed up the strengths and the weaknesses of the squad very cogently in his most recent Sun-Herald article. It is undeniable that, if Arnold is to resolutely stick to his lone striker system, a fit, in-form Mark Viduka is a necessity if Australia is to succeed. Scott McDonald was a lost soul in the target-man position against Uruguay, and others too have been found wanting in the role.
Foster correctly surmises that the absence of Craig Moore leaves the defence alarmingly short of nous; it's strange that throughout the Arnold era, the experienced, dependable Steve Laybutt has been completely ignored. Still turning out regularly for his Belgian club Gent, the veteran defender has generally performed well in the green and gold. The likes of Patrick Kisnorbo and Michael Thwaite were hardly faultless against Uruguay, and in their first major international tournament, they may struggle at times.
One final comment on the squad: Danny Vukovic must consider himself extremely unlucky to miss out yet again. With Brad Jones clumsy and unconfident against Uruguay and Michael Petkovic never having convinced in the green and gold, this was surely the time to give Vukovic the national squad call-up he deserves.
As this article tells us, we will be sending two (2) referees to the Asian Cup. I wonder if the AFC knows that one of them managed to thoroughly bugger up two (2) of the playoff games in the finals series of A-League Version two (2).
That was sort of my point about Laybutt. There is a danger, as I've mentioned before, that in this rush to "recognise" A-League high achievers when it comes to national team selection, the Euro B-List (who will often be better value than the A-Leaguers in some ways, espeically experience-wise) will get ignored.
But this is partly an issue of availability and continuity as well. And it has to be said that a few of the Euro second tier have been decidedly underwhelming in recent times.
Quite level headed and mature for a twenty-two (22) year old I think. Weird to think he wasn't even among the top two (2) choice GKs in the two-thousand-and-five (2005) under-twenties (20s), and wouldn't have got much of a look-in had the Mariners number one (1) in Crawley not been injured. Needs to improve some things but his progress in two (2) seasons, or just the forty-five (45) or so A-League/NSL games he's played, has been very heartening. If he keeps up his progress I reckon he should be in with a shot at getting the number one (1) spot in the two-thousand-and-ten (2010) and nineteenth (19th) World Cup, even with Schwarzer still about.
Hope that is numerically clear enough...
And, yep, I really rate (%) Vukovic. ;-)
Similarly, Federici isn't even on the standby list because it would actually hurt his chances at Reading to miss pre-season.
Vukovic would have benefited from being in the squad too but he's a little bit younger than Jones, he has a fairly solid place at CCM, plus Olyroo qualifiers to play August - November.
And Petkovic.... I guess that's an example of the Laybutt/ Euro B list/experience argument.
What did you make of Carney as the "new Chipperfield"? I still haven't worked that one out!
Kidology from Arnie, I feel.
No way can Carney fill Chippers's shoes, IMHO.
I guess Foxe might have been another choice were he regularly fit, while Milicevic has probably pissed off too many of the right people to warrant selection at the moment (and maybe there's a feeling he's too slow for the top level, I don't know).
Perhaps, given that none of the more experienced options really inspire confidence in the same way as Neill and Moore, it's been more hopeful thinking that at least one of Kisnorbo, Beauchamp and Thwaite (okay, Spiranovic, Leijer, etc) will step up to the degree of obliterating our memories of the stalwarts in favour of the spanking new. Question is, have they embraced the chances they've been given to a sufficient degree?
Foxe has been too much of a liability for the NT in the past, for mine. He might look good in patches, but you can rely on him to make a clanger at just the wrong moment (case in point being our opening game at the 2000 Olympics).
As for Milicevic, for Asian competition we'll need quick, flexible defenders IMO - and he's neither.
By contrast, I've always felt Laybutt offered a good second-tier option, particularly considering he seems to be equally comfortable at left-back or in the middle.