Thursday, March 04, 2010


Trouble at the Front

The Socceroos' largely insipid performance in last night's qualifier against Indonesia was not overly surprising; after all, caution has always been Pim Verbeek's watchword, and an upset in this match would have been profoundly embarrassing (not to mention costly, in every sense of the word). And there were some consolations, not least the performance of Tommy Oar, who played with great vigour and enterprise out wide, and that of Shannon Cole, who showed a pleasing response to the big occasion.

If there was a worrying aspect of the performance, it was surely the ineffectiveness of Josh Kennedy up front. Yes, the Japanese season is yet to start, but Kennedy has performed well for the Socceroos on the back of scant game time in the past. Last night, against a far from imposing defence, he looked surprisingly uncertain in the air...despite the fact that the team's tactics in the first half were based firmly around the space just above his head.

In fairness, not all of the punts from out wide (and deep) were particularly well-directed, but Kennedy should surely have taken one of the many chances that came his way in the second half. If they were watching last night, the 2011 Asian Cup hosts must be wondering how the forward who comprehensively destroyed them in the World Cup qualifiers could be so wasteful against substantially inferior opposition.

There's little doubt that Verbeek will stick with his 4-2-3-1 in South Africa. Barring an injury, Kennedy is likely to be the 1, with Tim Cahill scooping up the second balls in his approved style. But if Kennedy cannot rediscover his aerial prowess, and continues to offer little on the deck, it's hard to see how Australia's attack will function particularly well. And, needless to say, the midfield and defence will be put under far more pressure than they were by a craven Indonesian side last night.

The news is not all bad. This was, after all, a virtual C team, and it was probably the best performance by an A-League-based side under Verbeek (which is not saying very much). Oar may have secured the coveted World Cup bolter spot, although Verbeek will no doubt be hoping for a quick European move for the talented youngster. Jason Culina, operating in an advanced role for once, offered more incisiveness than usual, especially after the break. Come South Africa, however, it is likely to be square balls and pirouettes again from the Gold Coast marquee man.

Tommy Oar and Shannon Cole played amazingly and should be really proud of themselves.
For the B-Team, they really did pretty well I thought. Yep, Kennedy was disappointing, especially toward the end when he looked tired and just stopped chasing the ball.

And there weren't many long balls from the back, but rather more from the sides, especially from Oar, which looked great. And lots of cool one-twos and triangling along the ground. The poor ol' Indonesians were bamboozled most of the time.

If this was the World Cup team I would have been disappointed, but as it was I was really proud of them. Matty McKay the Roar favourite nearly got his first international goal but it landed on top of the net. There was a number of near-misses actually, including two on the woodwork. Good keeping stopped Kennedy scoring 1 (or 2?) in the first half.
Last time we played better in the qualifiers and stunk in the tournament. I think all you can do is qualify which is what they did. I just hope we don't lose first up to Germany cause that would make life tough for us. A point would be great.
I am with George Negus on this, don't tell A-League players they are not good enough then expect them to perform.

It was pouring all day - What was amazing was the 20,000 people from Brisbane who came to the game in gold to watch a team play in... blue?

Was Sergio van Dijk in goal for Indonesia or was it his brother?

Isn't it boring that Asian football is all about carried off on a stretcher?
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