Omani heat makes it hard to judge Socceroos after draw
Given the 40-degree heat in Oman it is hard to judge the Socceroos convincingly on this performance which led to a 0-0 draw. The approach in the Denmark game, which was relatively cautious, was virtually a dress rehearsal for this game.
In both matches the Socceroos chose to sit back and defend quite deep with only one player ever going to pressure the opposition ball carrier. This was done to conserve energy.
Whilst many of us would love to see the Socceroos adhere to a more progressive game style, the reality is it may be too hard to execute in a hot climate.
In the first half play was more patient. Even though we did not hussle the Omani’s when they had the ball, Marco Bresciano was able to bounce off his teammates more effectively and therefore control our play closer to our goal.
Overall ball retention was extremely worrying. At no point did any player attempt to build attack patiently. This is due to both the heat and the lack of a creative attacking fulcrum – namely Brett Holman.
The heat seemed to wear the players down eventually. In the second half when going forward, player’s techniques dwindled, as did their decision making. There was an over reliance on trying to play the ball over longer distances into channels for the strikers. Similarly crosses were favored, this a bit bizarre given Cahill and Kennedy, aerial specialists, did not get onto the pitch.
Australia’s structure moving forward had a gaping hole. McKay and Wilkshire sat wide and advanced, occasionally pushing toward the passes of Valeri and Bresciano. This left a vacant space where Holman would usually be.
For some reason Valeri and Bresciano played fairly level and neither of them attempted to command this attacking space.
Australia’s best chance came when they played the ball around the box, Thompson bouncing a pass from Bresciano to Brosque. This caught the Omani defense off guard and Thompson, played through by Brosque should’ve put Australia ahead in the 82nd minute.
Robbie Kruse’s introduction was a good one. He provided three dangerous crosses in quick succession. He commanded the ball to be given to him and was quick to flick it into the box. Australia need to more patient, better structured in attack and be more lethal in finishing. Hopefully this is possible in less oppressive conditions.
Defensively the Socceroos were fairly sound. Given the heat our midfield pressed adequately but against Japan will need to be more urgent, structured and hunt in packs.
In the 56th minute, in the middle of a period of dominance by Oman, Schwazer saved Australia’s bacon. Caught napping with a short corner, Neill was stuck the wrong side of a lunging Al Hosnei who forced a magical reflex save from the veteran keeper.
This was Oman’s best chance in a game they had their fair share of attacking play. For the majority of the game Neill and Ogenovski held firm, as did North and Carney. Both wingbacks attempted to give forward thrust but again, the heat made it physically taxing.
Japan on Tuesday, June 12th in Brisbane, are now the real test. Oman are not a great team, but the conditions brought Australia closer to their level. To be competitive against the marvellous Japanese the Socceroos need to be much firmer in the midfield.
A switch to a 4-2-3-1 may assist this. Two deep lying midfielders may better protect the defense whilst having Kennedy or Kewell as a lone striker will give the team a better attacking beacon to aim for.
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