Sunday, October 11, 2009



The premise of Channel 7's new sci-fi series might not lie in the realms of fantasy after all. Last night, watching the Australia v. Netherlands game, I had a vivid premonition of how Pim Verbeek's side will approach games against superior (or even peer) opposition in South Africa next year.

Plenty of shuffling the ball across the back four. A largely immobile central midfield pair, whose main ambition consists of shuttling the ball neatly back to one of the defenders. A reliance on the fading brilliance of Harry Kewell for drawing fouls in the middle third, thus increasing the chance of snatching a goal at a set-piece. Last but not least, great faith shown in the continuing excellence of Mark Schwarzer in goal.

I am simplifying things, of course, but little is likely to change in the months leading up to the event. Verbeek has clearly shown which players have earned his trust, and which have not. Amongst the former is Brett Holman, whose first touches and finishing again left plenty of Socceroo fans with strands of hair stuck in their fingers last night. Nick Carle? Not even introduced, to no-one's particular surprise.

On the plus side, another player whom Verbeek praised fulsomely in the post-match press conference was Luke Wilkshire, and the approbation was well-deserved. He nullified the dangerous Eljero Elia, his tight marking and committed tackling leaving little opportunity for genuine penetration. It was surprising, in fact, that the Hamburg winger stuck so resolutely to the left, given that his one brief excursion to the other flank ended in embarrassment for David Carney...who may well yield his spot to Scott Chipperfield against Oman.

It was good to see Brett Emerton back in the national colours as well, and his excellent cross for Kewell just before the hour mark was one reminder of what he contributes to the Socceroos. The Emerton-Wilkshire combination on the right will certainly be invaluable in South Africa.

To more immediate matters: Wednesday's game. The full-strength 'roos should have little trouble seeing off Oman, even if their last game against the men from the Gulf (the opener at the 2007 Asian Cup) evokes painful memories. For all his caution against opposition of note, Verbeek was not afraid to go straight onto the offensive against Qatar during the World Cup qualifiers, and he will presumably take the same approach against Oman. Of course, with his Euro contingent now available, there's absolutely no reason not to.

I don't care about what happened against the Dutch - I just want us to beat us Oman.
They were not at full-strength but its very hard to see how that Dutch team is third in the world. They were too indirect when they got into the final third and lack any real killer instinct on goal. Why would anyone want a "Dutch" system when the Netherlands can't be successful with it?

Even so, they need to find a way to get Schaars, Sneijder and van der Vaart on the field at the same time. It was great to watch classy players like that. Kuyt and Elia were (are) hopeless.

That's the first time in my life I thought I would rather be watching Sydney FC instead of the national team. This and the China game is now twice burnt for me. If they are going to screw about in friendlies, then at least cut the ticket price in half.
...They were not at full-strength but its very hard to see how that Dutch team is third in the world. They were too indirect when they got into the final third and lack any real killer instinct on goal. Why would anyone want a "Dutch" system when the Netherlands can't be successful with it?...

In fairness though, they were without van Persie and Robben (the latter, IMO, is one of the most genuinely dangerous players in the world on his day - can absolutely tear teams apart single-handedly). And whatever van Marwijk said about Huntelaar in the post-match presser, they REALLY miss van Nistelrooy up front. I think (like England) they just got a favourable WC qualifying group.
I agree with those points. But even at full-strength does anyone really see them as a genuine World Cup chance?

I used to like Huntelaar, what has happened to him?

I think van Nistelrooy and van der Sar may be back for the World Cup. Van Nistelrooy most likely would have buried us with those couple of chances that were given to Hunterlaar.

Bring on Oman.
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