Friday, March 06, 2009
The Numbers are Up
In the first of the A-League Socceroos’ Asian Cup qualifiers, the Dutchman had the excuse of limited preparation, oppressive conditions and a thrown-together team. In the case of last night’s debacle against Kuwait, there are no such excuses, and he has reaped a just reward for his arrogant, divisive comments in the lead-up to the game, which did nothing but destabilise and belittle the team.
Unbelievably, after the team set-up against Indonesia was shown to be toothless, with two holding midfielders and a misplaced Tom Pondeljak ensuring that the forwards were starved of service, Verbeek opted for exactly the same midfield array (with Michael Zullo in for Dean Heffernan), in a home qualifier. Again, it resulted in nothing but hopeful punts from the back or deep on the wings, which came to nothing against Kuwait’s surprisingly resilient defence. Zullo, too, found himself double-teamed all too often.
Absurdly, Travis Dodd was again omitted from the squad. The only man likely to provide width (and the willingness to run at his man) on the right, who had just rounded off a sterling season with a fine, fighting performance in the A-League final, couldn’t even make the squad for such a game?
The substitutions (for which, perhaps, we can blame Graham Arnold just as much as Verbeek) were ludicrous. Zullo, the only man providing any width, replaced by yet another midfield grafter in Fabian Barbiero? Robert Cornthwaite as an emergency striker? Shades of Nikolai Topor-Stanley at the Olympics.
But the essence of the problem last night, in my view, was that the entire coaching staff – starting with Verbeek – showed that they had absolutely no faith in the players. And the players (not to mention the Kuwaitis) responded.
To claim that the A-League players are not capable of stepping up to opposition such as Kuwait (as Verbeek will no doubt imply in the coming days) is nonsense. Even under the eternally-maligned Arnold, an A-League XI managed to defeat Kuwait, Bader al-Mutwa and all, fairly comfortably in 2006.
Rob Baan showed with the Olyroos in 2007 (yes, I know, there were a few Euro players in the mix as well) that a mainly A-League outfit could indeed play crisp, cohesive football with good preparation and a little bit of faith shown in them.
But almost every statement that Verbeek has made in the media over the last two weeks has had one implicit message: the A-Leaguers are ineducable third-raters with whom he has been working under sufferance. His comments about Archie Thompson and Danny Allsopp against Indonesia were deeply self-serving and unfair, given the wretched service they received from midfield throughout (as Thompson indignantly and justifiably pointed out afterwards).
The ultimate, unforgivable insult dished out to the A-Leaguers last night (and whether Verbeek is responsible or not, he must take some share of the blame) was the ridiculous shirt numbers they were made to wear, stretching to three figures in many cases.
How is a player meant to feel when it is suggested so cruelly that his selection is a case of scraping the bottom of the barrel? And, even more importantly, how is that likely to make an opponent feel?
It was abysmally poor psychology, and emblematic of a disastrous evening for Australian football.
In private (rather than in public, where he has made so many crass statements recently), Verbeek deserves an absolute shellacking from his employers…not that he is at all likely to get one.
And what the hell was Arnold doing even there? Why hasn't he been sacked after the Olympics debacle? (You've probably covered it in another post, but still, it defies comprehension.)
does he "get" the players he has at his disposal? or how they want to play? one of the highlights of international football is the opportunity to see different footballing cultures in action. something feels a bit square peg, round hole.
he`ll get us to the world cup. but that`s it.
Why no training camps like what we have last year in the WCQ against Qatar?
Looks like the club won the club vs country debate which is stupid considering the Socceroos are subsidising the A-League and that this match is fighting for the credibility of the entire league.
I remember John Kosmina trying to pull players out of Pim's training camps. Perhaps other coaches share his views.
There is a technical difference between A-league and the asian countries. That's why it's crucial that Pim be able to train with these players regularly to develop team cohesion and make up technical deficiency with tactical awareness.
The match against Kuwait 2 years ago was played by an A-league team that was far superior. The Asian exodus has hurt Australia.
And his "hopeless" comments. Bit of a media beat up I think
This is the full quote
"I have to be honest, they were absolutely hopeless in Indonesia but the last games I have seen (in the A-League) they were very good. Maybe it was because it was Indonesia and it was a long trip. They are doing very well in their club and that’s the most important thing.”
Seems the media took Pim out of context rather then Pim bagging Archie and Danny when he actually praised their performance in A-League and give out good reasons why they didn't perform against Indonesia.
PIm at worst was naive in choosing the word hopeless - replace it with "they didn't play very well against Indonesia" and no controversy would have been made but there were no malice in his comments.
Yes Pim stuffed up this match especially the squad selection but he isn't 100% to blame. I would have love to see travis Dodd in the side.
I also would have liked him to try to get 2nd tier European players who are struggling to get game time or players who are suspended from their clubs like Kennedy (5 matches in the row, not on the bench), Carle and bresciano (suspended for 3 match), Steffanuto (out of season).
His selections leave little in the way of a Plan B, in case we are chasing.