The last three winners of the Johnny Warren medal have been foreigners, hailing from Costa Rica, Argentina and Germany.
Given that those players would be considered second-tier footballers in their country of origin, what does that say about the average Australian-produced player?
All these players have one thing in common, a decent first touch. They’re nothing exceptional by World class standards, yet are generally superior to 95 percent of Australian-produced A-League players.
First touch is a key component in producing the sort of play that can excite. At the same time it produces the required result for your team.
An instant first touch can create chances in dozens of ways, as shown by the following examples.
The first one, which is mainly an individual effort, can be read about here.
The second is the classic Cambiasso goal from 25 or so passes at the 2006 World Cup.
None of the goals scored in these examples could have happened without an excellent first touch.
Individually it allows improvisation to occur, which puts defenders off guard. From a team perspective instant control makes for greater speed of thought as to what’s the next move.
If all players have excellent first touch (through excellent technique) then movement on and off the ball can be sped up.
This may sound strange coming from a Roar fan, but the Roar would have ripped up the A-League if they had players with the same first touch as Thomas Broich.
Take Massimo for example. He works his guts out like an Energizer battery on two legs, but his first touch is mostly poor, meaning Broich can control the ball instantly.
Passing it to Massimo, hoping for the same instant control, is not on.
I often wondered why he dribbled, beat a man and got so many free kicks. Perhaps it’s because he has no real confidence that a quick pass may result in quick control by a teammate, who has moved into space.
I relate excellent first touch to quick thinking on what you do next. It’s frustrating as a spectator to see promising moves break down by poor first touch.
The question I ask is, is it improving? I’m not in the loop anymore to know what’s happening at junior level.
Sure, you can tell me that small-sided football is the panacea, but are they?
That’s not all there is to ensure first-touch fantasia in our budding A-League stars.
Can you see a future Bergkamp, Cruyff or Baggio on the park? Do you see the potential for a Cambiasso-like goal?
Or are we still going to have to rely for some time yet on imports like Broich, Hernandez and Flores to provide a glimpse of what football can be like if all the teams were on the same wavelength.
Lets face it; imports are limited – there are only about five in the game.
Supposing they all were on the same level as Broich, that still leaves another five Australian-bred players to allow Broich to be confident that his first touch and pass will be received in an equal manner by by every member of the team.