Socceroos: Always happy with one point?
Warning: If you’re a die-hard Socceroos fan that believes a 1-1 home draw in a World Cup Qualifying match is a satisfactory result, perhaps stop reading now.
I’m quite surprised at the amount of positive feedback the Socceroos are receiving following their 1-1 draw with Japan in Brisbane.
If you hadn’t seen the game, and I told you that Japan, the away side, had outplayed Australia and were probably deserving of the win and that the home side weren’t deserving of a point, you might end up questioning me.
But I don’t believe I would have been lying. Why are we glorifying the fact that our players got out-played and out-thought, regularly cut up through the final third, but somehow managed to hold on for a draw?
Had it not been for a soft penalty decision awarded in our favour, I’m willing to bet the Japanese would have scored two more.
Let’s not forget, prior to Mark Milligan’s incorrect send-off, the Japanese were already knocking hard on our door. But in light of the send-off, credit is due for the Socceroos in holding on from that point.
The Socceroos in my opinion are living off the memories of the “Fritz Walter” and the Munich Olympic Stadium. The tactics and team selection are stale, and won’t provide any future success to match, or even exceed that of 2006.
Some might see this as being harsh, particularly following a tough few days culminating in an outing against a quality Japanese side, but frankly, this squad is a long way from where it needs to be.
Where does it need to be? Well I’d say the expectation of most Australian football fans and the players themselves would be to see the side at least get out of the group stage in Brazil. They have to get there first.
The Socceroos are fit enough, also strong enough. But I’m stumped if you ask me to describe how they play.
Spain, a great incisive and quick passing game. Italy, skilful but more defensive. England, direct and quick. Brazil, flare and style with great skill. Germany, skilful, organised and disciplined.
Australia. Physical, fighting spirit, hangers on… That’s one of the main problems. There is no real distinction or style of play. It’s remained that way since as long as I can remember, back to that heartbreaking campaign against Iran, with Azizi streaking away to bury us on away goals. But at least we had the likes of Lazaridis, Slater and a fit Kewell, who would more often than not take on their man.
These are the fond memories I’ve been left with of the Socceroos when I was growing up. This was the style, to take the attack to the opponent. Was the style, which provided the memories.
Aside from Cahill and Brosque who were work horses and actually provided some threat, the only real inspiring move or flare shown by the Socceroos last night was a simple turn on the ball by Wilkshire. You can probably remember which one I’m referring to.
Left and right backs are a major weakness. There is no positional certainty in defence, and certainly no attacking threat, lest I should hope at least for an overlapping run. In their defence though, our central defenders are not the fastest, youngest and most skilful and it wouldn’t be prudent should our wingbacks go marauding in a Danny Alves-esque manner and leaving themselves frequently exposed. Holger may also be held accountable on this.
Build up from the back is non-existent and the number of times Ognenovski or Schwarzer were left to clear up field left me fuming and frustrated, particularly when clear possession had been gained in the Japanese half.
Again, Holger may have instructed the style of play to favour this method more, with Cahill and Brosque to bully the Japanese centre backs off those long balls. But part of this can also be apportioned to a defensive or holding midfield that is there basically for that reason only, to defend and cover holes left by the central defensive pairing.
Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Michael Essien and Marcos Senna are among the better holding midfielders in the world. They are also among the best passers and distributors of the ball. I can’t draw any parallel with our holding midfield.
Please let’s not forget that part of the job of the holding midfield in building from the back, no, period, is to provide the link from front to back, provide passing options and create things when only small chances or windows of opportunity exist. Why are we playing two holding midfielders anyway?
McKay and Wilkshire toiled hard but similarly to our wing-backs, didn’t provide any width or thrust, and the attacking support was just not there for our strikers. We miss Brett Emerton in this regard. We miss Harry in this regard.
We miss Chippers in this regard (good luck to the local Wollongong side with their signing of Chippers by the way, possibly the signing of the season locally). The youth like Ruka, Spiranovic, Kilkenny and Kruse need to be given a meaningful shot.
The question also needs to be raised – where are our new upcoming youngsters? Or are these the ones who are constantly left on the bench to soak up the dreary play of the ageing Socceroos (yes Timmy, I mentioned age. Slick move on Mel in the post-game by the way).
Injuries and jetlag aside (we can’t use these as permanent excuses), the Socceroos are playing a staler version of 2006 football. Threats of the aerial raid against the Japanese are hiding the fact that we are resorting to playing a more polished version of park football.
Let’s define our goal, create our persona and style, and get the fans permanently on side and cause a stir. We have talented youth, but it’s in the thinking, mindset and coaching where the philosophies need to change. Let’s face it; I would honestly have preferred to lose 4-3 against Japan than that result last night.
I love the Socceroos, and have since I was a kid. I was in Sydney for the Uruguay game in 2005. I was in Germany in 2006. I was in Thailand in 2007 for the AFC. I’m all for promoting the game here in amongst the plethora of other mainstream sports, but let’s not paint the wrong picture of the game either.
Am I a cynic, or just being realistic? Am I even starting to sound like Fozzy?