Monday, July 09, 2007

 

Bangkok Adagio

I closed my last post with observation that Australia needed to show its opponents respect in this tournament, but had no need to approach their group games with any fear.

In tonight's match against an admirable Oman side, Graham Arnold's men did not show their opponents sufficient respect, and paid the penalty. The Socceroos were, in all truth, extremely lucky to emerge from the match with a point.

Arnold had presumably instructed his charges to ease their way into the game, and to practise energy conservation in the first half (the message from those Live Earth concerts must have really hit home). If such was indeed the case, they followed the instructions - and then some.

The intensity level from the Australians in the first half was nothing short of pathetic, and constituted, in my opinion, a major strategic error.

Yes, the word is "strategic", not "tactical"; it had nothing to do with the deployment of the forces on the park. It was, rather, a mistaken approach to the game.

Starting so slowly, nervously and unambitiously, with the implicit attitude that Australia could afford to stroll through its first game in order to win, emboldened a side whose technical quality meant that a little confidence became a dangerous thing.

Oman played excellent, intelligent football throughout. Orderly and tenacious in defence, crisp in their passing and movement, they only needed a little more precision up front if they were to pull off a notable upset.

In short, they outplayed Australia. No question at all.

Arnold and his team can only blame the conditions up to a point. The preparation for the tournament, as I mentioned here, was insufficient. But the Socceroos are sportsmen competing at the top level, and they have had a reasonable amount of time to acclimatize. Let it not be forgotten, the temperatures in Germany last year were also oppressively hot (if perhaps not quite so humid). This did not prevent the 'roos from performing at a brisk tempo throughout that tournament.

In the first half this evening, the tempo was strictly adagio, only hitting andante once the Omanis had scored.

Tactically, Australia were a mess as well. It continues to amaze me that successive Australian managers have failed to realize what most long-term Socceroo fans have known for many, many years: that Harry Kewell is a left-winger, not a playmaker, not a striker, not a box-to-box midfielder. Kewell lined up again in his nebulous "roving" role, last seen against Japan at the World Cup, and was predictably ineffective for the opening half-hour. He moved to the left thereafter, and managed a couple of good runs, before the players decided that the wings and the midfield were not really needed for Australia to equalize.

In fairness to Kewell, he was being very ably man-marked by Ahmed Mubarak, one of the most impressive Omani players.

Mark Viduka, policed very tightly by the laudable Omani defence, was far too isolated: once again, we saw a lone striker system in which there was no penetration on the wings - Marco Bresciano always tended to look inside, and Mile Sterjovski was utterly anonymous - and the lone striker ended up disproving the assertion that no man is an island.

There is surely no need for two holding midfielders at this event. Vince Grella and Jason Culina failed to click at all this evening, and the use of a defensive midfield pairing robbed Viduka of some much-needed support. Time for a change in that department, I feel.

As for the defence...all one can say is that it might have been opening-night nerves. But there was surely no excuse for all four of the defenders to have been caught ball-watching when a simple cross from the left reached Imad Ali in front of goal. Mark Schwarzer's magnificent save avoided what would have been severe embarrassment.

Luke Wilkshire did what he could with the set-pieces, and one or two of his largely predictable right-footed free kicks did indeed pose some danger. But on the whole, the dead-ball problems remain.

In the end, it took the sort of Route One football which would horrify even Terry Butcher for Australia to get its late, undeserved goal. Thank goodness Tim Cahill remains the King of the Second Ball.

All these strictures aside, perhaps a shock such as this evening's game is what Arnold and his side needed. Oman are the best-performing side we have faced in Asian competition so far...perhaps it's for the best that we have encountered "the next level" in Asia before the knockout phase.

Comments:
What, no mention of the playacting, time-wasting and possible fouls in the box?

Best moment of a poor game was when the Jp tv comms said 'Yappari Cahill' (who else but Cahill) when the equaliser went in....

Tokyo Pom
 
Excellent report mate, i get no coverage of whats going on as im in UK, but guys like you keep me updated.

Yes, there was playacting, but when your 1 nil up against a team like Australia, surely you have to kill the time?
 
It reminded me a bit of watching Italy over the years, or to a less successful extent, Argentina. You know, the slow matches early in the tournament, the scrappy wins/draws...and then show the class (hopefully) at the business end. Only thing is, the eye ties and Argies are used to playing that way. And it's a strategy (or mentality, whatever) that even bites them on the arse on occasion. Let alone us. I thought the equaliser was always going to come last night, but the 91st minute? Interesting to see if Arnold opts for a more conventional Australian approach next game.
 
The playacting was frustrating but there's no excuse for a pro outfit like Aus to get put off by it or be unable to impose themselves anyway.

Very disappointing all round but I'm comforting myself that the big teams usually start the World Cup slowly too but all that's forgotten when they reach the sudden deaths. Let's hope by the next stage we can see this as just a slow start.

Iraq will be a cracker.
 
Poor

Poor tactics, the long balling at the end was piss poor

we couldve easily lost that game 3-0..

Honestly Arnold's substitutions are always so predictable, he always makes them at the same point in the game. If Guus saw what was happeneing , he mightve even changed something in the first half...

There is too much favourtism with Arnold, he does not give Carle a chance... for the life of me i can not understand why.

Newsflash to Arnold? Did u notice how Oman was schooling us in a technical sense??? Infact for this i blame the FFA, our players need to learn to play with abit more skill and actually take on their opponents. The only players who can potentially do this in our team i believe are: Kewell, Viduka and Carle....

anyway i need a drink.. laters
 
...What, no mention of the playacting, time-wasting and possible fouls in the box?...

There was a bit of play-acting, sure (particularly at the beginning of the second half), but I get the feeling that the ref let them know that if there was any more gratuitous falling down, there'd be trouble.

It was nothing like the Sydney FC v. Shanghai Shenhua game (that was unbelievable), so maybe I'm inured to it by now!

...If Guus saw what was happening , he mightve even changed something in the first half...

Possibly, but to be honest I thought Arnold went into the game with "What would Guus do?" as his watchword. The substitutions were eerily similar to the Japan game (if Kennedy was there, I'm sure he would have been brought on at some stage).
 
This may sound slightly hysterical, but I rank last night among the worst 'performances' in the 20 years that I've followed the NT. Right up there with the Montevideo massacre and NZ in 1989.

If it was a case of Australia taking it easy while generally controlling the opposition a la the traditional Italian approach early in a tournament, fair enough. However, we truly deserved to lose by 2 goals IMO.

My biggest concern is that Arnold's methods were quite easily countered by Calderon, and we were predictable beyond belief - absolutely no width, unimiginative dinks into the box which were repelled time and time again. Even in the friendlies, we have often started well, but the opposing coach has made tactical changes at half time to outplay us in the second half (China, Uruguay). Unless something miraculous occurs in the next few weeks, it looks like Arnold has well and truly proven that he is not up to the requisite standards.

This could be a far earlier exit than originally envisaged. Hopefully it's woken a few of idiots/noobs in various forums who were predicting a 4-0 Aussie win before last night. Hopefully it also wakes up the likes of Mark "I think I'm a Superstar" Bresciano, Neill, Emerton and others.

Kudos to Oman tho, they should feel hard done by. Mind you, I think that could be karma for their timewasting, so in one way I can't help but think TS to them.
 
The time wasting was exactly what I expected. I was very impressed by the ref overall however. He seemed to know what was diving and what wasnt and also didnt mind flashing the cards for time wasting.

The less said about the Australian performance the better though. It truly degenerated into a longball-fest of epic proportions. Culina and Wilkshire were both guilty of just hitting and hoping at times. I lost count of the passes Culina overhit to Mark Viduka.

There seem to be a few players in the team whose egos are a bit too big at the moment. Namely Lucas Neill and Marco Bresciano. I thought Bresciano was average at the World Cup and even worse last night. He seems to still be dining out on that patch of form from a few years ago and manages to contribute very little yet remain a first choice.
I don’t know what the deal is with Lucas Neill though. He was immense at the World Cup but hasn’t exactly been brilliant for Australia since. The only thing I can think of that perhaps explains this is that he is used to being the ball playing centre back to complement Craig Moore's experience stopper role. Kisnorbo isn’t at the same level as Craig Moore and is probably a little green to be the kind of organiser at the back that Moore is/was.

The formation itself was terribly lopsided due to the difference in intent from the fullbacks. I thought Wilkshire coped better than I expected but I was left a little scared by Brett Emerton’s performance. He has been one of the most consistent players for Australia since Guus’ stint. Last night he seemed to want to be everywhere except right back. With Sterjovski in front of him he doesn’t have someone that is capable/is willing of staying back to defend when he overlaps. And it wasn’t just forward that he was caught, it was centrally also.

I’m prepared to put this down to jitters/miscalculation/a plain old bad performance, but surely Graham Arnold has to make changes to his first team or his substitution strategies for the next game.

Also, please remind me to skip TWG next week as I don’t think I could bear the holier-than-thou sermon from the Jogo Bonito experts on the panel. Arnold is sure to cop a roasting and likely to be more painful than the actual performance.
 
...I was left a little scared by Brett Emerton’s performance. He has been one of the most consistent players for Australia since Guus’ stint. Last night he seemed to want to be everywhere except right back. With Sterjovski in front of him he doesn’t have someone that is capable/is willing of staying back to defend when he overlaps. And it wasn’t just forward that he was caught, it was centrally also....

Agree completely. I'm quite surprised that Emerton is copping so little of the flak in the washup from last night; he was terrible. We got caught out on the right countless times (including for the goal, in which Emerton managed to get caught out of position initiailly and then fall asleep in the box), much more so than on the left. Wilkshire was mediocre again, but at least we didn't look quite so gapingly open on the left.

...Also, please remind me to skip TWG next week as I don’t think I could bear the holier-than-thou sermon from the Jogo Bonito experts on the panel. Arnold is sure to cop a roasting and likely to be more painful than the actual performance....

Hate to say this, but some of what went on last night rather confirmed Fozzie's comments in his last Sun-Herald piece.

But yep, think I might give it a miss as well. The eerie similarity between many aspects of last night and the Japan game from the WC (including the recourse to hoofball towards the close) will no doubt be conveniently ignored.
 
Um excuse me but there may ahve been a little hoofball in the Australia vs Japan match, but it was measured and purposeful, because their were players such as Kennedy who were brought on to control the ball and then further the attack.

Most of the time it was ball to feet

I couldnt believe people were trying to compare the scenario to the World Cup. Number One we were facing a much tougher opponent, Number Two we were playing hella better throughout that game and were unlucky not to score earlier infact, Number Three the substitutions made were purposeful and not just based on reputation...
 
Mike,

There were 5 attacking players on the field in the last half hour.
With a defence like ours at the moment we need the 2 holding midfielders.
People grow some brains, the aussies has 12 days to prepare for the game.
The coach should be held responsible for not organising at least 3 games before last night.
The players had up to 5 weeks off and you expect them to produce magic against some decent under rated teams in Asia with only 12 days of running.
Wake up and see the bigger picture.
 
Anonymous,
you say the coach should have planned at least three friendlies but what you must remember is that the friendlies are only useful if they are used properly and unfortunately a lot of times they are wasted like the Singapore one.

What I think is that the coach needs to substitute big name underperforming players because at the end of the day the team needs to win.
 
...Um excuse me but there may ahve been a little hoofball in the Australia vs Japan match, but it was measured and purposeful, because their were players such as Kennedy who were brought on to control the ball and then further the attack.

Most of the time it was ball to feet...

You'll notice I used the words towards the close. We played good football against Japan (although without a cutting edge) for most of the game, but in that last fifteen minutes we were hitting long from deep, searching for (mainly) Kennedy. Incidentally, he's someone we could've done with last night.

...I couldnt believe people were trying to compare the scenario to the World Cup. Number One we were facing a much tougher opponent...

You sure you're not just basing that on reputation?

IMO, the way the Omanis were playing last night was not much worse, if at all, than the performance of the Japanese in K-Town. I'd venture to say they (the Omanis) actually defended a bit better.

...People grow some brains, the aussies has 12 days to prepare for the game.
The coach should be held responsible for not organising at least 3 games before last night....

That's the job of the federation, not the coach. And to forestall the usual response that Arnie needed to put more pressure on them to do so, when he's been as good as told that he won't be in charge following the tournament, is he really in a position to make those sorts of demands?

...The players had up to 5 weeks off and you expect them to produce magic against some decent under rated teams in Asia with only 12 days of running....

Not magic. Just a competent professional performance. Last night was anything but.

You can't absolve the players of all blame after last night, IMO. By and large they were extremely poor, humidity notwithstanding.
 
Come on Mike, the coach dictates what he wants and if he was smart enough he would have organised more games.

The Asians have just finished their seasons over there so were fully prepared for the asian cup.
Most of the aussies had 4-5 weeks off and to think 12 days of running would get them match fit dude give me a break.
 
...Come on Mike, the coach dictates what he wants and if he was smart enough he would have organised more games....

Did you actually bother to read my reply?

Let me repeat:

The coach does not organize games, the federation does.

Arnie's wishes/needs currently carry very little weight with the FFA, that much has been clear for some time. He may have wanted more preparation, and as I stated here he hasn't gotten enough for this tournament (as you've correctly observed).

The Socceroos' physical preparer is currently stuck in a Sydney studio while the team's playing FFS. Arnie may be shooting himself in the foot tactically as well, but you get the very strong feeling that the federation is letting him hang out to dry at the moment.
 
If the coach cant demand practice matches then what sort of a coach is he.
Im sure if he did request more practice games he would have got them.
 
"The Socceroos' physical preparer is currently stuck in a Sydney studio while the team's playing FFS. Arnie may be shooting himself in the foot tactically as well, but you get the very strong feeling that the federation is letting him hang out to dry at the moment. "

When I saw Crea in the studio I was instantly worried. That is hardly a good sign.

I place the blame for inadequate preparation squarely at the feet of the FFA. To think that Arnold is the one who organises the games is naive in the extreme. Thats like saying it was Alfio Basile who phoned up Graham Arnold and cancelled the Argentina game.
 
Spot on. Top summation. You've covered most of them but here are my observations as they would've been if I hadn't read your piece:

They were not sharp, at all. We needed either more preparation games and a far better attitude from the players. It shows in the pressing, the team lthe other night would start to press at times but still always be half a yard behind the Omanis - the intensity was strangely missing.

Our defence on both wings was piss poor, and almost always ended up chasing back and scrambling. God Lucas was in the ear of Wilkshire, which may partly explain why he had a slightly better game positionally than Emerton on the other side. But both of them seemed to suffer from not knowing exactly what their roles were, and how far forward each should be getting, especially when Emmo had Sterj in front of him (though anonymous) but Wilkshire had a whole sideline to run. Not sure whether you picked it up on the tele but often lucas would sit out to the left, with kisnorbo basically central as if he was in the middle of a back three. I guess this was designed to let Wilkshire go forward more but it left us very stretched at the back with Emerton never supported. If it was FM, at times it seemed we were playing DML - CB (left) - CB (central) - DR. Not smart. There seems a contrast to Guus' apparent wonderfulness in letting each player know everything about his job. I don't think Arnie's managed to convey what he's trying to do, if indeed he knows himself.

There seemed to have been no thought as to how exactly Australia were going to score goals. Neither Culina or Grella are at all creative players, we had no wingers (even in the last 10 minutes when we'd turn over posession and there was an opportunity for a quick break, like oman were doing to us all game, no-one was hitting the lines and stretching the Omani defence.) and Kewell had no space which he made 1000 times worse by bringing Zdrilic's feet along with him. It seemed Arnie was hoping for some magic from Kewell or for Dukes to turn a man with his back to goal and score. Also we have an abundance of class midfielders who will take any chance they get, but only one half-match-fit one of those class midfielders who makes chances.

I'm running out of baht, hungover/still drunk and not sure I've made any sense, so I'll stop writing now. Next game I'd kill to see a front three with Kewell out left and either Sterj or Archie/Holman/Carney on the right, Emmo and Wilkshire in proper wingback roles, Spike to come in for Grella (yes I do realise how important he usually is but it's useless playing him with Choolina so deep in games we should be dominating) and run the back three, and Bresciano to make way for Cahill.

Schwarz
-----Neill - Milligan - Kisnorbo
Emerton - Choolina -------Wilkshire
Sterj ----- Cahill ----- Kewell
------Dukes
 
Mike, good to catch up on Sat evening, damn disappointed with the Roos performance/result....top wrap.
 
...Mike, good to catch up on Sat evening, damn disappointed with the Roos performance/result....top wrap....

Cheers Tony, good to catch up again. As usual, enjoyed the wrap on your site very much as well.

...not sure I've made any sense...

I think you've made perfectly good sense there mental - and I agree we probably need some personnel changes for the Iraq game.

Given that Viduka-Aloisi didn't seem to work particularly well in the closing stages against Oman, I'll repeat my suggeestion from after the Singapore game: maybe it's time to give Archie a go.
 
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