Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Flicking the Switch

Nearly there. Very nearly there. And maybe the tickets can be booked in a few hours' time.

Yet for the first half of tonight's game, it looked like being anything but a triumphant evening. Scott McDonald showed once again that the lone striker position is inimical to him, Jason Culina and Carl Valeri pitifully failed to push forward from their anchor positions, and Australia lacked even the semblance of urgency.

It was, in fact, a replay of some recent Socceroo performances...away from home.

There has been plenty of speculation recently about Pim Verbeek's ability to "flick the switch" from what appears to be his preferred approach - the safety-first, lone-striker, double-anchor stonewall - to the sort of football that fans actually like to see. For 45 minutes this evening, the news looked bad. But there were comforting signs in the second period.

Nevertheless, it was surely a strategical error not to pressure the Uzbeks more in the opening half. Yes, they had just come off an impressive win against Qatar, but it was plain even in the first half that the Uzbek defenders were decidedly vulnerable when placed under real pressure. Culina reverted to his all-too-familiar method of pivoting prettily before knocking an easy ball back to the defenders, while Valeri never ventured too far from base. Richard Garcia was a disappointment on the right, and Mark Bresciano did not really come to life until after the break.

Credit once again to the back four, however, who did sterling work to keep the Uzbeks quiet in the first period, when they were still confident. Luke Wilkshire did a splendid job on Jasur Hasanov, the player who caused him many problems in Tashkent. Although Michael Beauchamp was twice caught out early on, as he again gave doubts as to his international credentials, he did improve as the half wore on. And Lucas Neill was once again an imperious leader.

So to the second half: Australia spurred themselves into action, but for some time it looked unlikely to work, given the fact that the visitors had settled (in previous home games against Qatar, Australia did not give their opponents the opportunity to get comfortable). Ironically, too, Australia's initiative didn't really reach serious proportions until that stinging volley from Culina, who had been so insipid in the first half.

Verbeek betrays his conservative instincts with his substitutions; When Josh Kennedy was finally introduced, it was at the expense of...another striker, rather than the peripheral Garcia. Nevertheless, given that Garcia eventually won the (somewhat debatable) penalty, one shouldn't complain too loudly.

Two goals then, a rousing performance from Bresciano, and the crowd can go home happy. Verbeek has shown that he can indeed flick the switch...eventually. He left it late to do so, but he does deserve approbation for his more adventurous approach in the second period.

And what of Uzbekistan? Their campaign is back in jeopardy, and Mirdjalal Kasimov can be disappointed with some of his potential game-breakers; Farhod Tadjiyev, the hero against Qatar, was obviously struggling with his slight injury, but Server Djeparov ultimately failed to make the most of his time on the ball, and his delivery from set-pieces, though consistent (unlike that of Luke Wilkshire) was too predictable. Timur Kapadze left it until injury time to make one of those unexpected runs into the area that were such a feature of his play at the Asian Cup. And Hasanov was, on this occasion, a cipher.

South Africa is within touching distance, and it feels pretty good.

The debate of 'being conservative but getting results' with Verbeek will keep us entertained until we get to the World Cup (hopefully).

The basic fact is that if he went to a Performance Appraisal with Ben Buckley and Frank Lowy today he would get a pretty good assessment as the results are there.

If and when we get that point, I think we are all curious to see how Pim is going to play.
leopards. spots. all that jazz. why would he change things later?
this is how pim`s teams play. as hard as it is to accept, the fact is that we are going to the world cup with a defensive, conservative team. we have a defensive, conservative coach. if we get the right group, we could get to the second round again. if not, we won`t.

you wouldn`t change things, either because the way we have done things so far has been successful, or you wouldn`t change things because the opponents aren`t gonna get any easier.

A bit harsh on Culina. He pushed forward enough to have had 2 on-target shots on goal, one of which produced a world class save.
I agree with anonymous that your criticism of Culina was harsh and he did a lot more then passing back to defenders.

Some of his long range passes in this match was very accurate and he launch some dangerous attacks especially in the second half. I remember seeing a few passes to the wings from Jason Culina that were pin point.

I think an explanation why Kennedy didn't start and Mcdonald playing as a single striker. Pim say that he didn't think Kennedy could never last 90 minutes (check out WCQ Post Match interview of Pim Verbeek on SBS video at TWG) probably due to the fact he had no competitive game for the last 7 matches for his club.

Agree with the rest though.
To reiterate my comments from TWGF, re Culina's part in the match:

"In the second half he got forward more, put in that one beaut volley and generally earned his keep.

In the first half he just sat in front of the defence and played the ball square or backward, after making sure to take any impetus whatsoever out of our play, refused to make any tackles (he left that to Valeri) and was largely responsible for the fact that we had no urgency or penetration. And he plays like that far too often for a footballer of his quality."
Garcia's match stats were very good. He won a lot of hard balls and one on one duels.
Culina has never been a big tackler, using different strategies to defend.
Beauchamp made very few mistakes after the early period in the match, where he was culpable in a combination with a few teammates for some of the defensive errors.
Verbeek made the most of the logistical advantages. Australia played well in the second half.

Other than that, pretty good wrap, Mikey.

Perhaps I was a little harsh on Garcia dc, but re Culina...his strategies for defence often appear to be to diligently mark that empty space, just in case it might go on a sudden run into the box. ;-)
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