Osieck casts eyes over Roos and the huge job at hand
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Mark the 11th of August 2010 down in the diary. It is the day the latest chapter in Australia’s football story began, in little known Ljubljana, with Holger Osieck unveiled as the latest Socceroos manager on the day a transitional line-up of Roos strutted, or rather stuttered, their stuff against Slovenia.
Certainly a day when the regeneration of the Socceroos was meant to start, not that you would have know it based on the tepid and passive display from the men at hand. So much for the concept of playing to impress the new man.
Over the coming weeks, months and years, provided he gets that far, the German, our third manager from those parts behind Rudi Gutendorf and Les Scheinflug, will be judged for his contribution to Australian football, and it is as tough a gig as you are likely to find.
While Pim Verbeek’s remit was to get the Socceroos to the World and Asian Cups, Osieck’s is so much more.
While qualifying for Brazil 2014 remains one priority, Oseick needs also to rejuvenate a Roos side in time for Qatar 2011, develop the next line of players into international standard footballers, impart his technical know-how, leaving a legacy for Australian coaches and adding value right through the FFA technical team.
Oh, and he’ll be expected to dish up pro-active football, with results.
All the while, he will be shuttling between Europe, Asia and his home in Australia, in what is undoubtedly one of the most challenging logistical jobs in world football, one that requires total devotion and much energy.
That point, no doubt, counted out many of the apparent ‘big-name’ applicants.
This is no job for a man who wants one job. This is a crucial, multi-faceted role, as much about building the foundation for years to come.
At times Osieck might be looking around for a magic wand.
Undoubtedly a stint as the technical head at FIFA will have given him an insight into the art of juggling conflicting priorities, and keeping of multitude of stakeholders happy.
If he can pull off all the above, he may as well be knighted. Come to think of it, we might be due for a new Prime Minister by the middle of 2014.
His first job though was to cast an eye over a Roos side meant to be in transition but having a very distinct sense of status quo, set up in Pim Verbeek’s preferred 4-2-3-1 and featuring one of its great underperformers in Richard Garcia, who somehow managed to survive 90 minutes.
In truth, he wasn’t the only one to disappoint. This was lacklustre display right across the formation, from skipper Lucas Neill and Jade North in the centre of defence, through Mile Jedinak and Carl Valeri in central midfield, to Bruce Djite at the top of the formation.
Even Brett Holman, for all his industry and want to get forward, didn’t really unite the front third (has he ever?), while not enough was seen of the likes of Dario Vidosic and Nathan Burns, let alone the unsighted Tommy Oar.
What Osieck does with the formation and personnel in the three weeks between now and the Switzerland friendly will be instructive, but he will need some time to find his personnel and get his ideas across.
Going forward, he says he won’t be restricted by the FFA’s guiding 4-3-3 template, suggesting instead he will bring a flexible system, dictated by the players available.
As for his style and philosophy, Osieck claims he believes in a common structure which the players have to follow, but that he has much room in this structure for “individual spark” and “freedom of expression”. He wants players who can be creative and win games.
All that bodes well for players of the ilk of Nicky Carle, Alex Brosque, Billy Celeski and the flavour of the week, Mate Dugandzic.
It should also give the next crop of A-League creators, the likes of Mustafa Amini and Dimitri Petratos, some encouragement.
While he remained non committal on the standard of our domestic competition, admitting he hasn’t seen enough to form a view, he was very complimentary on the quality of Sydney FC team he coached against in March 2007, when his Urawa Red Diamonds came to Sydney and played their part in cracking football occasion.
While he didn’t remember Clint Bolton, who gifted him the equaliser, he was suitably impressed by Sydney’s then schemer Steve Corica, and also impressed with the pace and creative instincts of Brosque. David Carney, playing out on the right side of attack that night, also got a mention.
No doubt he will be pleased then to learn that Corica has now turned his hand youth management, and might decide to seek his counsel at some point.
But back to that match.
On The Round Ball Analyst at the time, I wrote about a manager who was caught out by his Sydney FC counterpart Branko Culina in the early part of the game, but one who soon adjusted tactically and was able to wrestle back control of the match;
“Off the pitch it was compelling, on the pitch even moreso. This was the most fascinating of tactical battles, something we have rarely seen in two years of the A-League, two managers manipulating the players on the pitch as if it were a game of high level chess. Loved it.
Culina had the upper hand early, Urawa’s 3-5-2 (the favoured Japanese formation) struggling to the deal with the width of Sydney’s game, as Carney (on the right) pulled Brazilian left stopper Flavio (no. 5) out of the middle.
Urawa’s problems were down the left. With star midfielder Shinji Ono starting in the left wing-back role, Sydney were sending Middleby and Talay forward at every opportunity, stacking the right, forcing Ono outside his comfort zone, into defensive areas. With Flavio being pulled wide, Urawa were all over the place, Sydney controlling the game through Milligan and deserving their two goal lead as defenders Tanaka and Tsuboi were stretched every which way.
With Ono unable to get into the game down the left, Urawa started to direct traffic and the ball to the other side, hoping to isolate Sydney’s left back Topor-Stanley. Clearly they’d noticed his weakness on the ball and perhaps some hesitation when a player runs at him.
Soon the Urawa skipper Yamada, right wing-back, ventured forward, isolating Topor-Stanley, a run off the ball by $3 million dollar man Yuki Abe creating the space for Robson Ponte on the edge of the box.
At 1-2, Urawa were back in the contest, but it wasn’t enough for their German manager Holger Osieck. He wanted to control the game. Off went Flavio, replaced by attacking midfielder Makoto Hasebe. Abe went from central midfield, where he had been peripheral, to left back, Ono from the left into central midfield and the hitherto unsighted striker Nagai out to the left.
Osieck had moved to a back four to counter Sydney’s width, and suddenly, with Nagai wide, getting on the ball and Ono central, pulling the strings alongside Ponte, Hasebe and Suzuki, it was Urawa controlling the midfield and the flow of the game.
An injury to Middleby before the break forced Zadkovich on. Culina obviously felt Nagai might prosper down the left so he countered by moving the better defender, Milligan, to right back after the break. Nagai equalised, from a Bolton howler, and Urawa bossed most of the second half, but for the last 20 or so minutes it was a stalemate, both managers seemingly content with the punches they’d landed. The message from both? We’ll sort this out in Saitama on matchday 6.
From my position, I felt Sydney were there for the taking and that Urawa might have hesitated a touch.”
While Osieck and his players didn’t quite finish off the job that night, I was impressed enough with his ability to read a game and wrestle the initiative, especially when his team looked shot at 2-0 down.
If he can tap in to the Australian want to attack, and find and nurture the right personnel, then this tactical flexibility should hold up well.
In his team, that night, there was certainly a touch of individual spark through the brilliant Brazilian playmaker Robson Ponte.
How Osieck develops the Socceroos front third, both in the immediate future and long term, and how he influences the technical know-how of the nation is likely to decide how he is ultimately judged.
Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyTannousTRBA
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