The positives and negatives against Denmark
With the naming of Pim Verbeek’s final Socceroos World Cup squad comes the end of more than a dash of uncertainty, because while the speculation will now swing to the makeup of Verbeek’s side for the opener against Germany on June 12, at least the 23 selected know they are in the Dutchman’s thinking.
Lucas Neill and Mark Schwarzer may have had the Germans pencilled in for months now, but the same couldn’t have been said for the likes of Michael Beauchamp, Carl Valeri and Dario Vidosic.
They and a host of teammates can now put their heads down ahead of the clash with Joachim Loew’s side. It will come as some relief.
Relief also arrives in the form of Australia’s far more accomplished defensive display in the 1-0 win over Denmark on Tuesday night.
If nothing else – and truth be told there was little to celebrate attacking-wise – the Socceroos’ restored some faith with a worried Australian football public.
Denmark seldom looked capable of creating much in scoring opportunities, but the Scandanavians saw nothing but obstacles every time they lifted the eyes goalward.
Craig Moore answered some critics with a solid display, but the real source of the stability came from the redrafting of first-choice full-backs Scott Chipperfield and Luke Wilkshire.
Ironically, Chipperfield could be used as an offensive weapon for the Socceroos, having finished the Swiss Super League season with 13 goals.
But Verbeek appears to value his reliability at left-back far greater.
In Wilkshire, the man plucked from obscurity by Guus Hiddink in 2006, Verbeek has a tenacious battler unwilling to give an inch.
In addition, both offer the ability to get forward, as Wilkshire – his country’s best against Denmark – showed on a handful of occasions. Moore and Neill appeared infinitely more comfortable in the centre of defence than the outing against New Zealand, and it might have been down to the full-backs to their left and right more than anything.
But while the defensive display was much-improved, the Socceroos’ attacking prowess showed little polish once again.
Granted, Australia is still missing two noted creators in Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton. Too much is expected, however, of targetman Joshua Kennedy. We all know the towering striker is handy with his head, and he reacted smartly to take his goal against the Danes.
But it was one of the few moments of quality of which Kennedy was involved.
Perhaps it was the new Adidas ball. Or maybe the altitude. Either way, Kennedy’s touch was heavy and he struggled to get involved.
Granted, he lacked support from the midfield. But this is not a man capable of the sort of role Mark Viduka played at the 2006 World Cup.
If Verbeek is to persist with Kennedy up front, then he needs to ensure that his midfield push up to feed on any of the scraps that may fall from Kennedy’s head. Australia will need to play the 4-3-3 often vaunted, not the 4-5-1 in its diguise.
Still, the showing against Denmark would be – you would assume – just the sort of performance Pim Verbeek would have wanted.
Whether or not the Socceroos will be able to score the goals needed to take them to the Round of 16, however, remains to be seen.