Wednesday, June 02, 2010


Beachballs and Danes

Although much of the football was dour once again, last night's Socceroo performance against Denmark was much improved from the New Zealand outing. The defence looked far more assured with the addition of Messrs. Wilkshire and Chipperfield (Wilkshire's crossing was a definite asset, for one thing), and even the midfield axis of tedium functioned a little bit better than usual. There was, once again, an improvement in the second half...for which, see below.

But the main issue to arise from the game was surely the flight path of the much-discussed Jabulani ball. The vast majority of long passes were badly overhit during the game, and although the altitude probably didn't help, the beachball-like trajectory is a concern. Plenty of teams are sure to keep the lines stringently tight (as both sides did at times last night) in order to force their opposition to go long...straight into the arms of the keeper, or harmlessly over the byline.

Mark Bresciano needed little inducement to offer some criticism, and other players probably feel the same. The 2002 World Cup featured a similarly eccentric "space-age" ball, which, as Gordon Strachan remarked at the time, belonged in outer space...where no-one could use it.

Back to the Socceroos. As against New Zealand, the team offered much more in an attacking sense once Jason Culina moved to the right, displacing the willing but essentially mediocre Richard Garcia, and linking well with the frontmen. If Brett Emerton cannot work his way back to full fitness before the opening game against Germany, it would surely be optimal for Pim Verbeek to start Carl Valeri in the middle with Culina on the right rather than in his usual immobile anchor role. Vince Grella, sadly, is bound to start, whatever his propensity for thuggery (there were a few more crude fouls from Grella in the Denmark game, with some petulant gesticulation the inevitable sequel).

The Danes were surprisingly short of ideas. In the first half, once they found that "getting in behind" with lofted balls was going to be difficult, the sole strategy seemed to be working the ball across to the right for Thomas Enevoldsen and the overlapping Lars Jacobsen. Although a couple of useful crosses came in from that flank, Verbeek's men rarely looked troubled. The much-hyped Ajax youngster Christian Eriksen made no impact whatsoever.

One warm-up game to go, then, with the Socceroos looking depressingly predictable, but hard to break down nonetheless.

I always believed over the many years of growing up in Australia, witnessing our way life, and our Soccer team, that ultimately, Australia's gift to the World of Football would be UnFootball.

That time is nigh.

Savvas Tzionis
Am I the only one who is enjoying the beauty of the defensive 4-2-3-1 formation being utilised? I'm a novice, so perhaps it is just me, but as I grow to comprehend what Pim is attempting (thanks to various bloggers in large part) and observe it taking shape and form, meanwhile getting the results that my heart desires, I love it. I love watching it work, watching the players work with it and maintain their moving shapes.

It's a cool formation.
There have been way too many Australian sides unable to work up the guts to play with more than one striker (even before it was fashionable) for me to appreciate the current system. ;-)

In a broader sense, this 4-2-3-1 was probably the system of the noughties and largely a more defensive/safety first than those before it.

In fairness, purely as a formation, I think 4-2-3-1 tends to be the basic setup of most "4-4-2" formations anyway - an out-an-out striker, a more creative one behind him, two wide attackers and two midfielders behind all of them overseeing things.

The thing is, each role has just about become more defensive in the past several years. In particular, the attacker behind the top striker has been more of a midfielder than a fellow forward, the two central midfielders have become more defensive-orientated and the whole thing has become more suited to attackig in transitional play.

This is largely because I'm a football nerd who probably watches too much for his own good, but personally I've gotten pretty tired of this current 4-2-3-1. Barcelona's version of it (which we'll probably see more of next season) is a breath of fresh air.

(and yes I know they're Barcelona and have great resources but I'd take all day arguing about that)
Barcelona might have great resources, but fresh ideas don't come with a price tag.
well it's about time someone picked a better formation and a better team..that will actually succeed.

Shoving Nicky on was and isn't now an option. 4-4-2 ain;t an option; Tim Cahill, ahem, aint a World Class Striker, maybe in the EPL but with Vinny and co way way off the pace who you gonna play, two central forwards? Don't think so.

Barcelona are beautiful but unless I'm mistaken, Timmy, Vinny and Jason don't play for Barca or even close.

So what would we all prefer, 2 forwards, 3 forwards. And then what a comfortable 2-0 loss, interesting.

1-4-3-1 was good enough for Gus, no-one complained, so why is the "same" team so different.

If Harry and Emo push on, Cahill jumping in behind Kennedy we could be attacking, in some moments, but does anyone really expect this squad to keep the ball in the final third for ten minutes at a time. Time to wake up Australia. We've done well and we may sneak thru, but if you can find the players to play attacking or exciting football at this level in the Aussie ranks..bring em on!

How many players play in the Champions League? Pim is working with what he has.
Eamonn, some sage words proffered there.

Another way of evaluating the Denmark match could be to contend Australia played well in a particularly congested midfield. Denmark played a higher line in the first half. Hence, most of the play was in Australia's defensive half.

Both teams were playing with little distance between the defensive line and the forward line. Given the condensed space and small amount of time on the ball, I'd suggest Australia played particularly well. There is no doubt Australia has improved since the last time we met Denmark.

Grella and Culina each made 10 and 8 difficult passes respectively over the course of the game. These are very high figures relative to any Australian player in any game. This is much higher than normal, because they had much less time on the ball and were constantly passing the ball under pressure, particularly in the first 60 minutes of the match.

There were more frequent occurrences of effective combination play in the attacking third too. Australia's goal came from a 9 pass sequence, even with the last one from Wilkshire being a ricochet.

Australia's cause was assisted by Denmark being more prepared to commit numbers forward, thus creating passing lanes for players in more advanced positions. Nevertheless, in the first half, the wide offensive Australian players struggled to gain touches on the ball. The Danish 4-3-3 was working effectively.

The link between the Australian defence and attack was better than it has recently been, with both Cahill, and then Holman, providing better distancing in a more compact shape.

I thought Culina struggled to get into the game in the wide positions, MIkey.

I noted that you also observed the attacking down the right flank of Denmark. I think they could see Carney wasn't as compact as Chipperfield was with Neill and the left defensive midfielder Grella/Jedinak.


Jon Price
Looks like I was on the money...

Savvas Tzionis
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