Thursday, February 12, 2009


Pim Geluk

In one of his engaging diary entries from the 2006 World Cup, Planet World Cup columnist Paul Marcuccitti invoked the term "Guus Geluk" ("Lucky Guus") to describe those mad final minutes of the unforgettable game against Japan in Kaiserslautern.

Last night, another game against Japan, another very lucky Dutch coach.

Pim Verbeek has certainly been favoured by the gods throughout this World Cup campaign. Shao Jiayi's missed penalty in Kunming, the Uzbeks' numerous fluffed chances in Tashkent, and, of course, Mark Bresciano's late and entirely undeserved winner against Bahrain. Now, a horribly insipid performance against Japan has been rewarded with a draw, despite the fact that a cool Japanese head in the attacking third would have probably ensured a 3-0 result. It was wretched to watch, and although Verbeek has the usual excuses of limited preparation time and a key injury (Brett Emerton), as well as the satisfaction of an away draw against the main group rivals, the general Socceroo effort - particularly in the second half - was lamentable.

Tim Cahill as a lone striker, when both Josh Kennedy and Scott McDonald were available? It defied sense. Not once did Cahill manage to hold the ball up effectively in the entire 90 minutes, yet this is no reflection on the Everton man: he was simply being used in a position to which he is fundamentally unsuited.

And although Australia took the field with no fewer than three defensive midfielders in a Christmas tree-style formation, Japan were barely stifled in this area. Vince Grella was chasing shadows throughout, Jason Culina barely got involved at all, and although Carl Valeri was diligent in tracking back to support Scott Chipperfield on the left, his main other contribution appeared to be knocking the ball forward to no-one. However, it didn't help the three anchormen that Brett Holman and Mark Bresciano (where has his first touch gone?) were so ineffectual in front of them.

Verbeek can, of course, thank the back five for the point. Lucas Neill and especially Craig Moore were outstanding, an overworked Luke Wilkshire had one of his best games for Australia at right-back, and even Chipperfield, shaky at times, made some good contributions. Mark Schwarzer's excellent save from Yasuhito Endo seemed to revive him after a hesitant opening period, and he controlled his area with aplomb thereafter.

Perhaps I protest too much. After all, I have recently made reference to the fact that the Asian qualification route is bound to be less entertaining than most fans would expect. But I feel that from our first team, Socceroo fans are entitled to expect a little more than the non-football we saw in the second half last night. For a period of about twenty minutes around the hour mark, almost every time Australia received the ball, it was passed straight back to a man in blue.

Preparation time was truncated, the rigours of travel are not to be underestimated, and the result was good (and, incidentally, we will not always have to endure the awkwardness of a qualifier on a friendly date). But next time, let's at least have an attempt to play some football. Japan may be one of the best sides in Asia, but we should not have to play come-and-get-me against them.

You are right, but Japan probably knew that Australia were coming here for a point and weren't good enough to take the point from us. They played their normal game and weren't good enough to score at home. We got a bit lucky but Japan are probably the more worried team right now. Cahill alone upfront was wrong (definitely needed more Jesus). I did get the feeling that some of the selections were made to counter Japanese speed with speed - hence the selection of Holman. Bresciano needs to be benched and maybe come on as an impact player. Culina performed his disappearing act again. Any opponent of GCU next season should take note to go down the flanks, bypass him completely and he'll just fade away.
Japan were rubbish. What's the point of intricate passing in the midfield if there's no end product? (I have a feeling I've complained about this in the current A-League season.) Their set pieces were horrible - and they had a stack of them in dangerous positions. Even when the ball looked vaguely dangerous, it didn't look like anyone knew what to do with it.

Australia went in to play non-football to be sure, but as Frank said above, Japan would have known this, and still they were toothless.
Couldn't agree more with your comments. But be fair, as far as the result is concerned, I don't really care about how well we played, as long as we grabbed the point. Anyway against a good side too, that was yesterday. We don't dwell on the Bahraini game, and we shouldn't dwell on lats night's.
What I understand we can now look forward to, is a ten day preparation period for the home game against the Uzbeks, and the final three games being played in June. In both cases, because of no European club commitments, the squad's preparation will be the likes of which we won't have seen since Germany. Four weeks I think for the latter three games. Who knows..Viduka maybe.
How's it go...don't worry, be happy.
Cahill as a striker isn't a bad move however Cahill as a lone striker is a bad move. Watching Everton vs Bolton he was awesome up front, winning headers, holding the ballm creating space, excellent teamwork, playing off the second striker and getting his team involve in attack. His strike partner Jo scored two goals that match and singled out cahill (and arteta) saying he was magical.

If cahill had a mcdonald or a kennedy to play off with he would have had a better match.
...Cahill as a striker isn't a bad move however Cahill as a lone striker is a bad move....

Yeah, exactly. He seems to have grown into the second striker position over the years, but having him lead the line is a waste of talent, basically.
I agree a wee bit.

Remember this team had little time to train together.
I suspect next time we watch them the passing and combinations will be pretty damned good.

How much preparation did the Japs have?

Even though I am an erstwhile devotee of the beautiful game I will settle for ugly results if we get to SA.
Mikey, 'twas ugly indeed. But I won't remember that when we are playing the opening round in South Africa in 2010. I'll be enjoying the moment.

I do however remember every gut wrenching playoff that led to non qualification in years gone by. We are winning fugly, that's for sure, but we are winning. I reserve my judgement on Pim's performance, because at the moment he is doing a job and he'll be judged by getting us to 2010.

I will be keen to see what he does with the remaining qualifiers after we (practically) secure qualification against Uzbeks. And of course what he does at the Finals themselves.
hmmm, the results are on track, but some round pegs are being stuck in some square holes along the way.

cahill`s talent was wasted, standing up there alone with only tulio tanaka and nakazawa (? apologies if i got that one wrong, good player) for company. surely the best way to defend would have been to have cahill in the space where holman was. the japanese would have been pegged back by the danger he could have caused in that space ... the biggest boos at the introductions were reserved for cahill. the crowd sensed he was the dangerman.

and to make it worse, cahill wasn`t capable of doing the job that he was asked to do. if jesus wasn`t up to the full 90, then djite should have been there. haha, troisi was getting into NT squads while not getting game time, but now he is getting time for a small euroclub, he`s out of the picture.

how do we get full value out of bresc? he is a better player than he showed wednesday night ... i think.

and having three defensive minded mids on didn`t exactly lead to a good defensive performance. we were shredded time and again.

two games with no attacking intent nor ability (this game and the bahrain game before it), and only the opponent`s lack of composure to thank for the points. we are the lucky country.

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