Thursday, October 01, 2009


Egypt Calling - update

It's a little early to be passing final judgement on Jan Versleijen's group of Young Socceroos, given that they are still in with a slim chance of progressing. But the report card is less than impressive so far.

Many have showered praise on them for how they took the game to both the Czechs and Costa Rica, but it's surely significant that Versleijen's charges only really did so when they were already chasing the game. And this is something that Australian sides have never failed to do, especially at youth level; think of Graham Arnold's otherwise awful Olyroos in their final game against the Ivory Coast, or even Ange Postecoglou's Under 20s in Holland in 2005, putting in a last desperate effort against Japan when elimination stared them in the face.

It is indeed to the credit of the current cohort that they bossed the game against Costa Rica even with ten men; the Central Americans underwent a freeze quite typical in 11 v. 10 situations, rushing their breakaways by looking for the immediate killer ball to secure the "safety" goal, and thereby handing over possession readily. (For a perfect demonstration of this phenomenon, see the final stages of the Paraguay v. Slovenia game from the 2002 World Cup - one of the most instructive games I've ever watched.)

But in the wash-up, the Young Socceroos only forced one save from the Costa Rican keeper in the final half-hour, from James Holland's header. Meanwhile, they could have conceded a good three or four at the other end.

It is strange that Versleijen couldn't find a better candidate for the left-back slot than the one-paced, hit-and-miss Matthew Jurman. Neither he nor Daniel Mullen gave nearly enough support to the attack in either game, and although one can question Versleijen's selection in this regard (he virtually admitted his misjudgement when substituting Rhyan Grant for Mullen against Costa Rica), it is indicative of the fact that Australia seems to be producing few good fullbacks these days. My vote for the best genuine fullback in the local game would go unhesitatingly to Michael Katz - a state league player already nearing 30.

We also saw the familiar sight of young A-League players, built up as stars by a compliant media back home, growing feet of clay at international level. Kofi Danning was a cipher in both games, and Mitch Nichols' failures in the attacking third in Egypt suggest that his temperament needs plenty of work. It's worth noting that Australia's best player against Costa Rica was probably Aaron Mooy, who has been spared the instant-soup adulation of the A-League.

But there are positives. Ben Kantarovski and Luke DeVere have shown some good signs, and Ryan McGowan had his moments too, before being dismissed against the Czechs. Let's hope for an improved performance from the outset against Brazil.

And yes, a word on the extraordinary ramble from Craig Foster in the wake of the match, replete with talk of parades and facile, nonsensical finger-pointing. If the Young Socceroos do, in fact, exit at the first hurdle, the plain fact will be that the FFA will have pumped silly amounts of money into preparations for a youth tournament, for little return. Money that would have been far better spent improving the lot of coaches at elite junior level...exactly the target of Foster's ill-considered rant.

And now that he seems to feel that the problem lies with the grass roots, will he offer a full, public, unilateral apology to Ange Postecoglou?

I agree that Postecoglu deserves an apology from Foster but for completely different reasons.

Foster was just simply rude to Ange in that interview. Just because you don't rate someone as a coach doesn't give you the right to treat a guest of a show with no respect. Also he has no right to demand Ange to resign.

However remove the hyperbole and the exagerration from Foster's disgraceful comment and the point remains the same. He believes that the problems with youth development prevent Australia from excelling at the world stage but is still, good enoughto qualify through asia and beat teams like China and Laos.

Whatever your opinion on Jan Versleijen's coaching, he qualified through Asia whilst Ange failed which supported Foster opinion.
...He believes that the problems with youth development prevent Australia from excelling at the world stage but is still, good enough to qualify through asia and beat teams like China and Laos....

You're doing a superb job applying post facto spin to what he said, but the facts are there for all to see.

Ange mentioned technical quality (i.e. basic development) as a factor in the failure to get through Asia for the 2007 tournament, and Foster completely dismissed this. This morning, suddenly basic development is the whole deal.

This morning Foster went to great lengths explaining that the results were secondary to the developmental importance of the tournament, yet he hectored Ange with the idea that his results told everything.

He shifts the goalposts all the time and twists every fact to fit his prejudices.
"You're doing a superb job applying post facto spin to what he said, but the facts are there for all to see."

Ok from the interview, you can check out on youtube around the 4:10 mark.
Ange asked fozz "if we brought in a technical director, would he say the way we develop players is good or not."

Foster replied direct quote "He would say it's good enough to beat Laos and good enough to beat China. He would also say it would need serious improvement like we all say. So we agree with you"

So there you go. I don't see any contradiction from his opinion in the past or now in that issue.

Now the whole result vs development debate. I admit one of the biggest failure during the foster rant against Ange was that he should have watch the match closely, analyse the performance and tactics and grilled Ange on the performance instead of just dismissing Ange because he lost. So yes foster did shift the goal post there.
i almost clicked the link to watch the video, but then i thought "it`s foster" ... and figured i could skip it.

but to give credit where its due, he has excellent self promotion skills.

What I find most intriguing about this is that suddenly results do not matter, and quality of football does. The current management's job is not to win, but to "teach these boys how to play football".

That is...staggering. There is not a country in the world that would tolerate that, from Brazil to Spain to England to Australia.

Indeed, Aragones was in deep, deep trouble prior to stumbling onto a formation that worked. Brazil have hired five managers in ten years. Ditto Holland.

Results are everything, and fapping over triangles when it's obvious the Costa Rican midgets would have struggled against Australia's superior height advantage is blinkered nonsense, especially when you can only manage three shots on target in 90 minutes.
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