Socceroos defeated by Germany at the 2010 World Cup

Australia's Luke Wilkshire, left, and Australia's Lucas Neill leave the pitch after the World Cup group D soccer match between Germany and Australia at the stadium in Durban, South Africa, Sunday, June 13, 2010. Germany won 4-0. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

Pim Verbeek gambled and failed. The Socceroos’ deficiencies, that we had discussed at length, were on full display against the brilliant Germans, together with Verbeek’s tactical naivety. We can still survive Group D, but if we don’t Verbeek will be the scapegoat.

When I saw the team sheet before yesterday’s clash with Germany, minus a recognised striker, I, like so many Socceroos fans, feared the worst.

What was he thinking? Why pick his World Cup debut against the might of Germany to finally gamble?

Having seen the starting XI, I tweeted at the time: “I’ll say this before the game: if we bomb spectacularly at this World Cup, at least Pim Verbeek will be the scapegoat.”

A day later, and on reflecting on the heavy loss, it was the relief of knowing Verbeek would soon vacate his role and Australia would view him as the scapegoat for the defeat that comforted me from the fear of how the country would perceive the World Cup thumping.

Spoilt for success in other sports, Australians aren’t used to losing big and still struggle to grasp their true place in the only truly global sport, so the hammering wasn’t good for the Socceroos brand. Pim, at least, could take the fall.

Verbeek choked on the biggest stage: playing without a known striker; starting with a 4-4-2, the antithesis of how he crafted the Socceroos over the past three years, with the odd pair of Tim Cahill (taken out of his crucial midfield role) and Richard Garcia; playing Jason Culina in the unfamiliar left wing, taking him out of his crucial holding role; and leaving Mark Bresciano, Harry Kewell and Josh Kennedy on the bench.

And we haven’t even mentioned his persistence in starting Craig Moore – made worse by Lucas Neill’s awful performance – and Vince Grella, along with the lack of a coherent defensive or counter-attacking strategy.

Yes, age has wearied the Socceroos’ golden generation, but it was Verbeek who persisted and protected that core group with his failure to challenge them by bringing along the second tier.

He must go back to his basics against Ghana this weekend, with the obvious impediment of the team’s attacking limitations in a must-win game coming to the fore yet again.

Cahill will be missing; Kewell’s fitness and form remains a mystery; and being overlooked in favour of Garcia and Nikita Rukavytsya will further shake Kennedy’s confidence.

But even with those concerns, they are still an infinitely better team than the performance against Germany showed.

The Ghana match is Verbeek’s chance for redemption by gambling in a more sound and intelligent way – by reshaping the team to its qualification structure and showing confidence and faith in the second tier group of players. The stage could be set for a Dario Vidosic, Brett Holman, Michael Beauchamp or the like to reignite the Socceroos’ campaign.

It’s all well and good relying on the so-called leadership skills and grit of our golden generation, but form must determine the XI for Ghana.

If only Verbeek had shown more faith in the second tier in the past.

At least Ghana’s victory over Serbia puts the Serbians under even pressure than the Socceroos. Serbia now faces Germany in a must-win match Friday, and judging by their respective performances, Serbia is up against it.

A victory to Germany over Serbia and Australia over Ghana brings the Socceroos back into contention – meaning they, like four years ago, would need a draw in the final group game, but this time around it would be against an Eastern European nation with nothing on the line.

Progression is possible, but only with significant changes and self-belief.

Craig Foster implored the nation to show their support for the Socceroos, stating the true support for the team will shine through in this moment of pain.

We believe in the Socceroos, but do we still believe in Verbeek?

Ghana’s his final chance.

Join Tony Tannous tonight from 9:15pm EST for his live analysis of the New Zealand All Whites’ opening match. Follow from your laptops, iPhones, etc, and comment during the game HERE.

Adrian Musolino
Adrian Musolino

Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.