Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Or can you?
You could perhaps have asked for more from the two strikers, who, after providing the physical presence to put our opponents on the back foot early, did pitifully little until Mark Viduka began to find Tim Cahill such a congenial provider.
You could perhaps have asked for the midfielders (Jason Culina in particular) to have been less leaden-footed in the second half, when the Thais (let us be frank) ran rings around us in that area of the park.
But you can't be over-critical. The Socceroos finally proved that this tournament does mean something to them, and Graham Arnold's changes were good ones. David Carney was lively, Michael Beauchamp steady, Mark Milligan outstanding.
Luke Wilkshire's move to the right was long overdue, and worked well. The substitution of Harry Kewell for an ineffectual John Aloisi was appropriate, and the addition of Tim Cahill (who perhaps should have started ahead of a sharper but still indifferent Mark Bresciano) was ultimately decisive.
Now then: Japan.
Apart from that surreal afternoon in Kaiserslautern, our recent record against one of our oldest rivals has not been good. And they are running into form; Naohiro Takahara and Seiichiro Maki now appear a menacing front pairing, and with Shunsuke Nakamura showing flashes of his best form, the Japanese must go into Saturday's game as favourites.
The key could be the set-pieces. Japan possess two very capable strikers of the dead ball in Nakamura and Yasuhito Endo, who scored a lovely goal against Vietnam from a free kick just outside the box. We have already shown, both in this tournament and just prior, that our defence from set-pieces is inadequate. We will need Mark Schwarzer to be well and truly on his mettle.
Should Arnold make any changes to the revamped team? Lucas Neill is likely to return, despite Milligan's splendid (match-winning, in my opinion) performance at the heart of the defence against Thailand; with Vince Grella once again looking shaky, would it be feasible to restore Neill to defence while giving Milligan Grella's role in midfield?
Arnold has shown enormous faith in Grella, and I can't see him wavering from it against Japan. In addition, Grella will surely be asked to play on Nakamura, whom he would know from the latter's Reggina days.
David Carney did enough to suggest he should be given another go in the left wing-back role, although if truth be told, the left flank was left exposed quite often in the course of the Thailand game. Carney did, at least, show some unexpectedly good defensive instincts at times.
I still feel there is room for Archie Thompson up front. With Aloisi looking blunt and battle-worn, and with Japan's central defenders seeming rather less vulnerable to physical threats than at previous events, I would opt for Thompson as Mark Viduka's partner.
And no, I haven't forgotten what Aloisi did to the Japanese in Germany. But that was at a time when their confidence and self-belief was shot to smithereens; at the moment, the Japanese look anything but short of confidence.
Emerton Milligan Beauchamp Neill
Neill never plays CB for his club anyway. Solves all our problems and is flexible as it can easily become a 3 man defence with Emerton and, say Carney moving to wingbacks
Grella probably needs to be dropped but is now unlikely to be, due to the increased quality of the opposition.
Did Culina do anything except yell and make angry faces?
Aloisi looked average as per usual. Archie Thompson, your time is now.
The only real surprise I suspect Graham Arnold may pull is Cahill in for Bresciano. Bresciano has been very short of form throughout the tournament although has gotten better as it goes by. He is still far below his best though. As good as Cahill has been I think he is worth more as an impact player. Whoever plays in the midfield against Japan is going to have to do a lot of running because Japan havent had many problems holding the ball. So if Cahill isnt fit enough to run all day then he may struggle.
I think despite our poor form (the lucky 4-0 included) the team can definitely pull out a result against Japan. I just get the feeling that the scars from "that" 8 minutes in Kaiserslautern could be too much. I guess i just get the feeling that Japan are our bunnies.
Also please count me in as an official fan of Mark Milligan. Did not look out of place in the first team. Surely a move overseas beckons?
Picking the team for the next match is going to be difficult on so many levels. The Lucas Neill conundrum - the suggestion by Anonymous is a compelling one - what to do with DM, Bresciano's poor form and the substitutions to make with the spectre of penalties.
Maybe Grella will have to be used, but I'd go as far as dropping the ineffective Culina (who I'm now convinced is the archetypal 'passenger' who's form is dependent on the team's performance) and use Wilkshire in that water-carrying role. It could be argued that Bresh should be dropped for Cahill.
The main reason for this is the penalties situation. Cahill doesn't take penalties to the best of my knowledge, so I'd rather see good penalty takers used as subs, which would mean the likes of Aloisi, Bresh and Kewell. The last thing we want to see is all three starting and being subbed for Cahill, Holman and Culina for example. Having Neill back could be more crucial than many expect.
I've read an article suggesting that Milligan may be replaced by Neill. If so, I can only shake my head. Why not both, with Neill as a full-back, or a three man central defence?
We will most likely receive a good pummelling, so our chances depend on which Mark Schwarzer turns up on the day. Some of his best performances tend to occur when we're under the kosh, so I'm hoping he plays to the same standard as Holland last year and France in the 2001 CC.
At the risk of sounding like a Carle Fanboy, I'm also disappointed that Nicky hasn't had any minutes when we've been crying out for better control of possession in midfield, but it's probably too late to use him now. Given his apparently good form at training, I'm starting to think he's been screwed the entire coaching staff's wives....
Whilst I agree that Milligan doesnt deserve to be dropped after a stellar performance, why move him to midfield after he has just excelled at the back? Likewise, why replace him with Neill when he has been average in that position thus far. If Neill comes back into the side it should be for someone else who isnt performing, not at the expense of a young guy whose performance showed everything that Neill hasnt been recently.
TFO, i like your idea to drop Culina and move Wilkshire into the role. I hadnt thought of that. Its the best idea i've heard so far. I also tend to agree that Culina is a passenger. He is a hard-working, technically sound, nothing midfield player. Doesnt score enough, cant open teams up with his passing, doesnt run at defences, isnt strong enough in the tackle to be considered a hard man. He's just an inoffensive option in midfield. Wont win you a game, wont lose you a game.
The non-use of Nick Carle in this tournament is indeed a bit of a head-scratcher. I wouldn't read too much into his form in five-a-side kickarounds, but the lack of a creator in midfield has been obvious in this tournament from day one.
If you saw him you just might. Not because of the way he's twice as good at anyone else on the ball in a tight space, but because of the chasing he was doing and the tackles he was putting in - he REALLY wants to be there, and really wants to play.
I still think he's getting dragged down by that out-of-date work rate perception.
That would have to be the best summary I've read of Jason Culina's Asian Cup contribution thus far. ;o)
Pity, because it's almost as if he's progessively losing his natural attacking instincts. It might be just me, but I've noticed this occuring since he moved to PSV. I thought he played his best football early in Hiddink's tenure with the NT, when he still provided the odd long-range effort on goal.
These days, he occasionally threatens to play a ball forward, changes his mind and goes backwards. Mind you, he's been better than Grella, but CM is undoubtedly the real problem area ATM.
I can't think of any other sport where any setback is celebrated by so called sport fans.
Wilkshire misses a game as he has received two yellows...
Put emerton at right mid and neil slots in at the back.
Bresciano is to slow for asian football. He is more suited to the slow pace of Italian football.