Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The First Qualifiers
Let's just sit back for a moment and consider the significance of their achievement: they are the first Australian men's side to qualify for a worldwide event since our move to Asia. The Joeys failed, the Young Socceroos did likewise. Although the Matildas are to be congratulated for making it to the Women's World Cup through the tough Asian confederation, they had the advantage of playing all their qualifying games on home soil. The Olyroos, by comparison, endured some decidedly awkward away trips, and came out triumphant.
It's a notable, laudable success...and credit is also due, of course, to Rob Baan and Graham Arnold.
The manner of their success was perhaps less than glorious, and indeed they were lucky not to be down and out within the first twenty minutes of this afternoon's game, when the Koreans came at them quickly and decisively, taking advantage of the Australians' unfamiliarity with the artificial turf. Mark Milligan's uncharacteristic error for the Koreans' goal can perhaps be excused due to his earlier knock, but in truth, the whole defence looked dreadfully shaky in that early period.
Luckily, the Koreans subsequently ran out of ideas and, ultimately, legs.
Graham Arnold's decision to start both Ruben Zadkovich and the blunt Leigh Broxham in midfield bespoke a defensive attitude, and it was fortunate that he found the courage to subsequently replace Broxham with Nathan Burns, who should surely have been on from the beginning. Dario Vidosic, too, was lucky to be starting after an indifferent performance against Iraq; he, too, didn't see out the ninety minutes. All one can say is that Arnold probably began with the wrong cattle, but was at least able to acknowledge his mistakes.
Some of the deficiencies that were apparent against Iraq surfaced again - an inability to play the ball effectively out of defence, a lack of options on the right, regular turnovers in midfield (how Stuart Musialik was missed in this department). I think it's fair to say that Australia faced opposition that was technically superior in the course of the campaign.
Yet the weapon that has served Australia well in Asia already - physical power - played an important role again. Not least when, in the last half-hour, after Arnold's charges had begun to settle, the robust Olyroo defenders won far more than their fair share of aerial balls. It was surely significant, too, that Australia's crucial goals in their last two games have come from set-pieces.
One final note about the Olyroos: Before watching the 2004 cohort playing in their Oceania qualifiers at Bossley Park, I glanced at the match program and noted that the vast majority of them were playing in Europe. Mostly at modest clubs, and in many cases suffering ongoing bouts of bench-splinter disease.
A quick look at the current Olyroo squad brings a smile. Plenty of them are based at home...and they are playing regularly in the A-League. So much for the "Youth Crisis".
I hope we are not seeing more of Arnold's deficiencies
Same with the iRaq game at hoem.. we were poor, didnt maintain possession well and set pieces saved us..
how well will they save us against teh teams we have to face in the Olympics?
Furthermore as for your comment 'so much about youth crisis' maybe you are right, but take into account the quality of the league... yes those youngsters of our previous generation may not have been in the first-team but im sure they played in reserves and cup competitions.. which id have to say would have been an enormous learning experience for them..
Besides, the youth crisis is not really at this level.. its at a grassroots level and its in relation to the technical deficencies of the players, which is very apparent... i mean heck, we only have to look at how we played on that artificial pitch, the players with more technique (e.g Burns) coped well than others...
In all honesty, I think the current generation is vastly superior to that team of 2003/04 that played quite poorly against the Kiwis. We certainly have more depth now, and the likes of Burns, Troisi, Djite, Musialik, Vidosic, Sarkies et al compare favourably with the last generation of Holman, R.Griffiths, Valeri, Carle (when he was actually played) and Elrich. Whether they were based here or overseas doesn't change that.
As for this generation, their qualification was more a testament to mental strength and determination than technique in the final round. They played some beautiful stuff at times under Rob Baan, but worryingly, the team is unquestionably going backwards under Arnold. Yes, I know Arnie cops too much criticism at times, but I feel this is undeniable now having watched him perform at three separate jobs. All his teams are the same: dour, defensive, slow in the build up, lacking movement up forward and in midfield, playing far too many long balls as a result, and distinctly unimaginative.
Compare that to the two jobs that Baan has already had in Oz. His teams play with variety, lovely cohesive play through the middle, switches of play and good discipline and flexibility.
In truth, we were very lucky to draw this group and avoid Japan and South Korea. The previous round was unquestionably a much tougher group, with our only conquerors Saudi Arabia struggling in the last round against Japan and Qatar.
But still, the boys should be immensely proud of what they achieved. If only we still had the cohesiveness of the previous round....
Has anyone a 'youth crisis' e-mail to SBS?