Sunday, July 15, 2007
The Debacle...and after
There were periods in the match when Australia actually played fairly well. But whenever Graham Arnold's men started stringing a couple of decent moves together, there tended to be a weak link in the attacking chain. In the first fifteen minutes, when Australia looked somewhat the better side, Brett Holman was the man. The Dutch-domiciled attacker has been in lousy form of late, and he simply could not get into the groove against Iraq at all.
Harry Kewell produced a couple of incisive runs and crosses in that opening period, but when things started going against the Australians - and this is a worrying habit of Kewell's - he took his foot off the pedal. Amongst the crowd of players in green and gold who need to take a long look in the mirror after Friday night's performance, Kewell should be near the front of the queue.
In the end, it was individual mistakes that cost the goals, but there is no denying that Iraq deserved the victory. Their midfield functioned much better, the clever Nashat Akram giving a commanding display in the engine room, and they showed greater urgency in the final third.
Urgency. It's something that Australia, once again, pitifully lacked.
So many times, in the first half, one of the midfielders (often Vince Grella) took an eternity to appraise matters before knocking a telegraphed ball up to a player who was already tightly marked. Inevitably, the "move" would be over as soon as it had started.
So many times, the potential receiving players refused to budge from their positions, ensuring that the Iraqis' defensive task was straightforward.
It was dull, laboured stuff.
The Iraqis, by comparison, passed the ball around briskly at times, moved off the ball diligently, and generally played as if they wanted to create something.
It's hard to judge whether Arnold or his players deserve more criticism. Certainly, the players once again performed well below themselves. But once again, Graham Arnold's stubborn insistence on his Hiddink-esque system, and his inability to deal with a changing game situation in any other than a hackneyed manner, cost the Socceroos.
Why was Brett Holman started in the three-quarter role, when he has so plainly been in poor form of late?
Why was Mark Viduka left isolated up front yet again, after the Oman game had demonstrated that he needed a partner?
Why was Luke Wilkshire again used at left-back, a position to which he is totally unsuited?
After presumably being brought on to help Mark Viduka up front, why was Archie Thompson then wastefully plonked out on the right flank?
But spilt milk is spilt milk. What about the decider against Thailand?
Vince Grella has had his second chance, now he should be dropped. His display against Iraq was abysmal; caught ball-watching at all three of the Iraqi goals, giving away several needless free kicks (including the one that led to Iraq's first goal), taking an aeon to release the ball in midfield, and engaging in some petulant shoving towards the end of the first half which should really have resulted in a second yellow card. He is an absolute spectre of the player we saw at the World Cup.
Mark Bresciano, too, has done nothing to merit a continued place in the side. He was snuffed out by the impressive Bassim Abbas in the first half, and his move infield in the second period did not improve matters.
Harry Kewell has looked worryingly blasé at times during the opening couple of games, and a spell on the bench might do him some good. It's a great pity, since he is still our finest player on his day. But when Graham Arnold made his ill-advised if not entirely inaccurate comment about players not wanting to be there, he may well have been thinking of Kewell (among others).
Who's in, then? With Lucas Neill suspended, Mark Milligan is the obvious candidate to plug that particular hole. Paddy Kisnorbo was once again a liability; it's Michael Beauchamp's turn in the other centre-half slot.
Carl Valeri deserves a chance in the holding midfield role, with Grella performing so poorly. As for the attacking third, Nick Carle (who should surely have been introduced against Iraq) is worth a punt, with his more experienced colleagues suffering from feet of clay. Tim Cahill may have contributed to Iraq's second goal with a sloppy back-pass, but he certainly lent an edge to the Australian attack once he came on.
And David Carney for Kewell on the left wing? Unimaginable going into the tournament, but not out of the question now.
Not sure if I'd put Kewell's name in the disinterested bracket. My impressions of him have been although he is performing fairly averagely, he definitely looks keen to be there and to get things happening.
Grella and Bresciano are the biggest culprits for looking like they'd rather be at home.
Archie definitely had a few touches which led me to think that he's been underused or in this case, poorly used.
Bringing Aloisi on at the death instead of Carle or Carney was possibly the final nail in the coffin of this campaign. Now I'm no Nick Carle fanboy, but he possesses a completely different skillset to the the rest of our squad and it's one that most players in Asia seem to have. I believe its what Craig Foster calls "technique".
How is it that Australia can go from a country that has a history of producing excellent passing midfielders now cannot open up a team through the middle without bypassing the midfield?
Aloisi. Thanks for scoring the penalty, please retire from international football.
As far as the SBS calls today that Graham Arnold has behaved abominably in criticising his players in public, I dont agree. He didnt say anything that wasnt true. However i'd like to see him shoulder a bit more of the blame. Perhaps a rocket up these guys is what they need. I suppose we'll know tomorrow.
AS for the rest: Kewell and Bresciano do lose interest way too easily. Emerton, the only fit player, has made too many mistakes in an already flaky defence. And the subs have been really disappointing, other than Cahill, of course.
But basically they are all playing like they are a bunch of guys who've never met before, who are taking it easy, being a bit hangover and overweight. There is no team play.
Of course we have a huge hole in the middle, that should have been filled nicely by using both Carle and Thompson. Then Viduka might have some company!
And please, let's do our homework on the opposition: Arnold get an assistant to go thru a few games of your opposition, then put a strategy in place!
Hope we can comeback from this. But there's no point in flogging a dead horse and just blaming Arnold (like pretty-girl Foster does!)
Way too late for that. If you pay peanuts you get monkeys...
Let's get a bit of fresh blood in there. And like dch said, benching Kewell and getting Carney in there might even make them both play like it matters.
That's the best to come out of this: hopefully a lot more humility and preparation and more game time for all three younger Socceroos: Thompson, Carle, and Carney.
Anyway, better to find out now than in the next WC qualifiers.
Let's hope Arnold makes the changes you suggest. They seem obvious, but I suspect Arnold is in too much shock to think clearly. Having Kosmina as his 2IC will not offer much of a sounding board either.
I have just watched China play Iran. Outstanding game between two excellent teams. On what I have seen thus far they are streets ahead of our Socceroos this tournament.
I really think every single player has been below par, it's been sad to see...
Taking out the attitude problems that seem to exist and focussing entirely on the tactical, I think Arnold's handling of his squad has been very poor....
His selections, changes, tactical variations (what variation??) are generally fairly predictable...he might as well get back to the days under Farina when the first 11 was announced a day before the game, giving the opposition valuable time to prepare a game-plan to counter us...
1. I don't think we can beat Japan, because we've wasted three chances to get into a rhythm and develop a style.
2. Width. The difference between us and Oman was the width, and thus space, they had on the break. Almost the first time we went wide in the whole tournament we scored against Iraq. We scored off two crosses and Kewell running in from the sideline last night. There should've been another (Holman) as well. I said at half time in the first match that our only chance of winning this tournament is if we play two genuine wingers, to give us options and spread out our attack. Which is why I still think we would have done better in the first 2 games if Carney started on the right. But as above, I fear it's too late now.
3. Related. Bresciano. How many millions of times better was he playing off Dukes than in his I'm-kinda-supposed-to-be-a-right-winger-but-I-like-it-more-in-the-middle-so-I'll-go-there role. Looked well up for it the other night, especially in the first half, his best game for us in years (not hard I know).
4. H. Kewell. I like him on the right. It's the Dave Carney thing. He's not put in any decent crosses from the left anyway.
5. Carney used his right foot. I saw it. Wow.
6. Lucas Neill. Where? In for Emmo?
Leigh and I have booked for Hanoi this morning. Amazin scenes.