Wednesday, June 17, 2009

 

The Summary

It's always nice to have ninety minutes of football essentially summarise an entire campaign. And that is what we had with the Socceroos' 2-1 sign-off victory over Japan tonight.

There was:

The slow start

In our home games against Bahrain, Uzbekistan and Japan, we have looked languid (some might say woeful) in the first half: sitting too far back, not fashioning any decent linkage between defence and midfield, and relying too much on the aerial ball. Again, Australia's first-half efforts tonight, after an admittedly brisk start, did not enthuse.

The lack of any opposition presence up front

How much has Pim Verbeek's team owed to the lack of any truly commanding strikers in our World Cup group?

Tonight, once again, Japan produced plenty of intelligent, progressive play in the middle third, but there was no-one to take charge, or take the chances, up front. Around the hour mark, with Japan pressing but not penetrating, one always felt that the pendulum could swing quite easily.

Mark Schwarzer

Enough said.

I don't think anyone would deny him the title of the finest goalkeeper in the Asian confederation; realistically, only Seigo Narazaki and Lee Woon-Jae come remotely close. With the Fulham keeper between the sticks for the Socceroos, the defensive task becomes so much easier.

He was not unduly tested this evening, but was still there to snap up the corners, deal with the half-hearted shots, and generally lead the team from the back. Quite priceless.

The midfield axis of blah

Yep, the two screeners were there again.

Vince Grella may have added some impetus to the side in the previous game against Bahrain, but his predisposition to dangerous fouls (many of them quite close to goal) could have cost the Socceroos tonight, and may well do so once the team faces stronger opposition.

As for Jason Culina...well. He has been an ever-present under Verbeek when available, but there have been times when he has appeared supernumerary. He did at times this evening.

The opportunism

It's not just Tim Cahill. The Socceroos, in stark contrast to their Asian opponents, have shown an ability to score in adversity, shall we say. European experience? Physical dominance in the enemy area? Flapping opposition keepers? A bit of all three. But it has been an invaluable weapon for Australia throughout the campaign.

What to say about the fringers? Nick Carle had a quiet game until his crucial little cameo just prior to his substitution, but that did at least underline his value. Rhys Williams, after a nervous start, grew into the game quite well. Shane Stefanutto was threatened surprisingly little by the often dangerous Atsuto Uchida, and had a generally solid game.

Whatever the doubts over the team's readiness for stronger opposition in South Africa, it has been a splendidly successful campaign.

Comments:
This was quick!
 
...This was quick!...

My better half needed to use the computer. ;-)
 
My son reckoned it was Shane Stefanutto who was to blame for Japan's goal. Haven't relooked at it closely myself.
 
Steffanuto was on the line, the ball grazed his hip but there wasn't much he could do. The only part of his body he could have got to the ball was his hand.
 
...My son reckoned it was Shane Stefanutto who was to blame for Japan's goal. Haven't relooked at it closely myself....

...Steffanuto was on the line, the ball grazed his hip but there wasn't much he could do. The only part of his body he could have got to the ball was his hand....

Actually I partly agree with Jacob. Speaking as a former fullback myself, I reckon Stefanutto was a bit flat-footed on the line for that one. Of course, he had next to no time to react, I just think he could have anticipated a bit better. Might not have stopped the goal but he would have given himself a better chance of doing so.
 
It still the only editorial amterial I can find on the game! Thanks Mike!

Even SBS has gone all quite, perhaps they are not sure what to say about Nikki Carle...
 
Despite the bright start, I think Nicky Carle wasn't done any favours by the rest of the team - they kept playing it long to Kennedy, or playing down the right. Actually, it almost looked like they didn't want to use him... (mind you, they sometimes do that to Kewell until he gives them a spray).
 
I watched up untill Japan scored. Carle was isolated by the long balls, the back passing master class and the belief that because Kennedy is 20,000 ft tall long balls are the burl.

I like the look of Rhys Williams, a little ungainly for a fullback but he got forward well. Same with Steffanuto really.

I had to turn it off. I couldn't handle the back passing.
 
On Stefanutto: He had one hand against the post and the other on his hip, how did he hope to defend a header from that body position?
Totally at fault there.

As to Carle, I agree that Australia didn't play to his strengths. For one thing, playing out wide, he will be under utilised. And God help us if this is the height of midfield distribution that we can expect from Grella and Culina at the world cup. They were very bad. Jedinek should be given some more game time in order to release the other anchor man to concentrate a little more on spreading the ball around. Australian went backwards with their passing a lot against Japan.

I would have liked to have seen Carle given the full game and perhaps moved inside for the last 15 mins after Australia had taken the lead. Verbeek was rather formulaic with his substitutions and game plan.
 
....On Stefanutto: He had one hand against the post and the other on his hip, how did he hope to defend a header from that body position?
Totally at fault there.

As to Carle, I agree that Australia didn't play to his strengths. For one thing, playing out wide, he will be under utilised. And God help us if this is the height of midfield distribution that we can expect from Grella and Culina at the world cup. They were very bad. Jedinek should be given some more game time in order to release the other anchor man to concentrate a little more on spreading the ball around. Australian went backwards with their passing a lot against Japan.

I would have liked to have seen Carle given the full game and perhaps moved inside for the last 15 mins after Australia had taken the lead. Verbeek was rather formulaic with his substitutions and game plan...

100% agree with all that.
 
Thank you Mike.

And please bring back Viduka. Kennedy is a good impact player to have as an option but we need Viduka's class in holding the ball up and playing others in.

I think an attacking set-up of

------Viduka

Carle--Cahill--Kewell

in front of two holding men and full backs to provide overlapping width, would be quite formidable.
 
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