Sunday, June 07, 2009

 

Strictly Business

We've made it!

With a fairly colourless draw against Qatar early this morning, enlivened at times by Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell, the Socceroos have qualified for their third World Cup. Congratulations to Pim Verbeek and the squad.

Of course, as many have already pointed out, there wasn't quite the sense of occasion this time; no penalty from John Aloisi or rocketing shot from Jim Mackay to stir the blood. But that is in keeping with the rest of the qualifying campaign, which has been, well, businesslike.

But that's life in a proper confederation, and we should be grateful for it.

Now is perhaps a good time to take stock of the move into Asia, and the tremendous benefits it has brought to Australian football. Not only are our top club teams (well, our previous year's top club teams, anyway) regularly facing peer opposition from other climes, not only do our youth and women's teams face proper challenges more than once every couple of years, but the grand prize - World Cup participation - is achievable via a proper, long-term campaign with a margin for error. A far cry from the two panic-filled weeks every four years that has been our lot since the 1998 cycle.

The manner of our qualification, and our play in particular, has been more controversial, but a full analysis of that aspect can wait until preparations for South Africa begin in earnest. One thing that can definitely be said for Pim Verbeek: his teams are solid defensively. No goals conceded in the entire second qualifying phase is a remarkable achievement, and an echo of his Korea Republic team's performance at the 2007 Asian Cup.

Some of my friends have chided me for giving Verbeek such a wrap in the post-Arnold selection process, given that he has presided over some pretty turgid football (incidentally, Jesse Fink seems to have confused the author of that November 17 article with himself). It's true, he hasn't always impressed as Socceroo coach. But I do believe that his prior experience in Asia has been valuable along the way; a member of the Socceroos' backroom staff confirmed to me late last year that it had been of quite tangible value to the squad when many were smitted with that stomach bug in Tashkent.

Now, to return the compliment and echo Mr. Fink, the aim must be to secure some good, convenient friendlies in the lead-up to South Africa, to try out a few fringers, foster even greater on-field understanding among the troops, and above all add some attacking impetus to a unit that has been solid as a rock, but less than thrilling at the other end of the park.

Comments:
i can`t quite shake the feeling that this is it. what you see is what you get.

changing the team`s character between now and the start of the world cup isn`t going to happen.

if it was gonna happen, i think it would have happened during the campaign, not after it.

i will be cheering the socceroos as we do our best not to get scored against at SA.

clayton
 
What are you suggesting, Mike? I just did a search and found this article of yours. I would be careful making such an insinuation. For the record, I have known Pim Verbeek since 2006, when he was coach of South Korea. My interviews with him feature throughout my book that was published in May 2007. I first mentioned Verbeek as a "good" candidate for the Socceroos job as far back as September 2007 in one of my last blogs for Fox. Verbeek was linked to coaching in Australia from as early as July 2007 and on the day of your column you have linked here - November 17 - was mentioned widely in the Australian press as a possible candidate to be interviewed by the FFA to replace the AWOL Dick Advocaat, along with Klinsmann, Mourinho, Neeskens, Zola, Vieira and Humphrey B. Bear. My column was written on November 19, apropos of Verbeek's imminent announcement that he was formally interested in the job, which I knew about through my own conversations with Pim. You know that beer you wanted to have? Forget it.
 
Oh FFS Jesse, calm down. Just amused that you were out by two days on the date of your previous article, and that the date you gave actually coincided with one of mine on (more or less) the same topic.

It would be hard to be unaware of your acquaintance with PV, since you manage to manage to mention it in about half the blogs you write for TWG. ;-)
 
Oh bullshit, Mike. You like to throw mud and see what sticks. This hasn't.
 
I contend that the next two games are going to have a heightened relevance. While Pim has clearly been up to the task of manufacturing a result, let us now see whether he's up to the task of conniving a dominant display and an imperious performance.
 
So like, when we fail to get out of the Group at WC2010, which one of you will be the 1st off the wagon?

VERBLEEEEAAAAK.

You wouldn't know football if it jumped up and bit both of you in the arse.
 
There's not really anything to suggest that we *should* or *deserve to* get out of our group.

Under Guus, with a squad that most people think was stronger than our current one, it took a penalty shootout to beat Uruguay, who haven't been in the last 16 since 1990. We then got through to the last sixteen on the back of an offside goal from Kewell against Croatia. CROATIA!

Pim is on a hiding to nothing if everyone really thinks he should do better than Guus. We should expect to come third in our group, any more would be a bonus. If we get a weak group then good, but we shouldn't bet on it.
 
"We then got through to the last sixteen on the back of an offside goal from Kewell against Croatia. CROATIA!"

Only made up for the two or three penalties we should have got but didn't before then. Actually it didn't. We were unlucky to only draw that game.

Just on your general point, I kind of agree. IMHO the 2006 team was last 16 material if managed well, and Guus managed us well (not exceptionally, not like he's done for the Netherlands, South Korea and Russia, but that's fair enough when he was only with us for 10 months part time). The 2010 outfit is looking like a step below that, maybe last 24/3rd in the group like you say. But that doesn't mean we're not good enough to be reasonably aggressive, still concentrate a fair bit on playing to our own attacking strengths and give it a serious go in South Africa. There haven't been too many signs of all that happening during the qualifying campaign so far.
 
Team Fyfe you are forgetting the perfectly good goal we scored at the death of that game while Viduka was being fouled however the goal was not given, nor was the penalty. A foul was called for Croatia and the game was ended.

So you want to talk about if's and but's in that game Australia would have come out with a healthy win.
 
we had the same record as korea - 1 win, 1 draw, 1 loss ... but we went through, but in their group, that wasn`t enough.

the luck of the draw matters.

clayton
 
...I contend that the next two games are going to have a heightened relevance. While Pim has clearly been up to the task of manufacturing a result, let us now see whether he's up to the task of conniving a dominant display and an imperious performance...

I know what you're saying, but there's always a letdown following a tough qualifying campaign (or league campaign, come to that). IMO the friendlies in the lead-up to the tournament will be the stiffer test.

...Pim is on a hiding to nothing if everyone really thinks he should do better than Guus. We should expect to come third in our group, any more would be a bonus. If we get a weak group then good, but we shouldn't bet on it....

I don't really mind if we don't get out of our group, but I'd like to see the team play to its potential, which is what's at issue here basically. This team is probably not quite as good as the 2006 one, basically due to its being the same bunch (more or less) just four years older. But it's still capable of being competitive at that level.

...Team Fyfe you are forgetting the perfectly good goal we scored at the death of that game while Viduka was being fouled however the goal was not given, nor was the penalty. A foul was called for Croatia and the game was ended.

So you want to talk about if's and but's in that game Australia would have come out with a healthy win...

Agreed. We had one (maybe two) stone cold penalties turned down by that idiot Poll, plus the Simunic three-card trick, plus a goal right at the death that only didn't stand because of the final whistle. Justice-wise, we more than deserved that draw, Harry's offside position notwithstanding.
 
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