On Verbeek’s tactics against Germany
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As we now know, Australia lost its World Cup opener to Germany by a hefty margin. 4-0. I don’t think there is a lot of benefit in dwelling on the result. The performance and the margin were disappointing, but the result was expected.
I think Pim Verbeek knew what we were up against and took some risks.
People will look at his selection and tactics and say he got it wrong. With the benefit of hindsight, yes he did, but let’s be reasonable. When a draw would be considered a success, who can blame the coach for taking some risks to give his team a chance of an unlikely victory?
I think Pim was hoping to surprise Germany in the hope of achieving a result. In my view, the principle is good: to do whatever it takes to give your team the best chance of winning. And let’s be fair, Australia opened promisingly with an immediate attacking foray and a good early chance. Sadly, it didn’t last beyond the opening five minutes. Soon enough, Germany adapted to Australia’s game and completely dominated the remaining 85 minutes.
It was a valiant attempt, but ultimately proved spectacularly unsuccessful. Whilst I don’t blame Pim for taking some risks in an attempt to win, I think what we can say is that Pim took the wrong risks. I think his biggest mistake was to play Tim Cahill as a striker. Cahill has played as a striker before, for both Australia and Everton, but never with any success. It hasn’t worked in the past, so why would it work now? Cahill is a brilliant attacking midfielder, but the striker’s role doesn’t suit him. It takes away his greatest asset: his ability to make runs from outside the box and get on the end of the balls coming in.
Perhaps Verbeek was trying to play even more conservatively by playing Grella, Culina, and Valeri all as defensive midfielders, and only Emerton, Garcia and Cahill attacking, but if so, why were there so many gaps in Australia’s defence? Why were they not filled in by the seven defensive players? Either the players didn’t play how Verbeek asked them to, they were totally torn by Germany’s passing, or Pim was trying to play Culina as an attacking midfielder and only Grella and Valeri as defensive mids. It looked to me as though it was possibly a combination of the first and third options. Whatever the reason, it didn’t work and we were punished.
Secondly, I don’t understand why Pim played Garcia ahead of Bresciano. I can only assume that he felt Bresciano would be unable to run out 90 minutes and would be better utilised as a substitute. If that was the case, then I guess it was a fair enough decision, but in my view Garcia has nowhere near the class of Bresciano and I think the clubs they have played at over their careers demonstrate this. Furthermore, I think Dario Vidosic may have been another option better than Garcia.
Finally, taking an even broader view, why on earth did Pim leave Scott McDonald out of the squad if he knew it was it was possible he might play this formation? Is there a single person on the planet who would disagree that we would have been much, much better off with McDonald up front and Cahill in place of Garcia?
However, all is now said and done. The decisions have been made, the risks have been taken, the match has been played and the result was about as bad as it could have possibly been. I fear we will never know why Pim made the decisions he did, but I believe he did what he thought would give us the greatest chance of earning a result. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. It didn’t even come close.
Does this make Pim a bad coach? I don’t believe so, and I think the players have to share some of the responsibility. And I hope Pim not remembered by Australian’s as a failure, because he has done what he was asked to do: to get Australia to the World Cup. However, I think if Pim were truly world class, he would have hit closer to the mark.