Thursday, June 11, 2009
And the Socceroo performance, on the whole, wasn't too bad. As in the Uzbekistan game at the same venue, Australia were languid and short of ideas in the first half, but became more cohesive and incisive as the game wore on. The 2-0 scoreline perhaps flattered Verbeek's side a little, but Bahrain, in all honesty, were callow and ineffectual in the final third and rarely looked like scoring, even during their periods of sustained possession.
It was good to see a few of the fringe players in the green and gold again, too. The redoubtable Paul Goodwin of Back of the Net has been a regular companion of mine in media boxes around Sydney in recent times, and last night we spent some time weighing up the strengths and weaknesses of the players who are likely to be mainstays of the team post-South Africa. Although the picture could be a fair bit brighter, there are one or two good signs.
Mile Jedinak has attracted some criticism for a few silly challenges last night, but I think this propensity for unwise fouls (which has been a feature of his game for some time) tends to mask his virtues. He was thoroughly dominant in the air in midfield, and although unambitious in his distribution, he made few real mistakes. Ultimately I think that Jedinak might find central defence a more congenial role than central midfield...but that's a question for the future.
Brett Holman has been a regular punching-bag for many fans, mainly due to his often heavy touches and a tendency to panic in goal-scoring situations. Last night, though, he did manage a couple of clever through-balls, and traversed every blade of grass on the pitch, as is his wont. He's not a player of outstanding quality by any means: a "coach's player", as Goodwin aptly dubbed him, willing to follow instructions until he drops. A handy reserve, in other words, although our stocks are indeed low if he is to become a first-team regular.
And what of the inscrutable Mark Milligan? His Chinese sabbatical seems to have rejuvenated him, and he had a good game, his best in a Socceroo shirt since the game against Thailand at the Asian Cup. There always seems to be a howler just around the corner, though, and he needs to temper his impetuosity if he is to become another Lucas Neill...rather than another Hayden Foxe.
It was a pity we saw so little of Nick Carle. Verbeek, of course, has made no secret of his ambivalence (to use a mild term) towards Australia's most polarising player. Perhaps we will see more of him against Japan. Or perhaps not.
Jokes were flying around the box last night about Pim Verbeek seeking special dispensation to have McDonald take the field in green and white hoops rather than green and gold, to enable him to score. And it's true, despite the fact that he is simply not suited to the point-man role in which Verbeek has often employed him, his form for Australia in general has been lamentably poor. Last night's awful miss in the first half was only the latest of many, and getting the best out of the Celtic marksman should be one of Verbeek's top priorities in the lead-up to South Africa 2010 - for both the World Cup, and beyond.
Drudgery is all well and good but there is no substitute for skill, especially now that Australia lacks a competent target man or a class striker, not to mention the seemingly waning powers of Bresciano.
That is a wow factor. plenty of balls for Kennedy there.
We are still a little stiff on the right whem emmo is not there.
hopefully time will fix that.
hopefully time will fix that."
I agree. I know it is all the trend to bag the hell out of Holman at the moment but I still get the impression his problem is that he is still very uncomfortable when playing for the Socceroos. I think very visibly, too.
I suspect he is not as one dimensional and useless as he is portrayed, and that in the future he will click and be a valuable player for the Socceroos.
It takes some players a lot longer to settle, and Holman is clearly treated as, and probably feels like, a bit-part, second rate player.
I clearly remember the days when Brett Emerton used to be the whipping boy of the boo-brigade, when, for the Socceroos, he used to often dribble himself into a dead end, lose the ball between his own legs, and seemingly every cross he whipped in would end up in Bay 22 Row P.