Tactical analysis: Socceroos vs Blue Samurai
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The Socceroos emerge from the toughest week of qualifying for Brazil 2014 with two points. Lucas Neill said pre-game that the team would’ve taken a point. To get it in the circumstances they did is even more satisfying.
The Socceroos adopted the same 4-4-2 formation as they did in the Denmark and Oman games. Tim Cahill replaced Harry Kewell in partnering Alex Brosque and Australia used his abilities in an uncomplicated manner.
The attacking plan was to get the ball to the front two as quickly as possible through the air or along the ground.
The flat 4-man midfield would then rush the Japanese defence as quickly as possible to collect the ball back from the strikers.
Then they would look to distribute wide to the overlapping fullbacks in Carney and North or play through the increasingly talismanic Bresciano.
This was similar to our early dominance of the Asian Cup Final. Japan was able to quell Tim Cahill’s aerial threat in that game through a tactical switch to bring on Iwamasa, who is strong in the air. However, Zacceroni did not make such a change this time.
Controlling a football match using this tactic is difficult. There is little emphasis on keeping the ball and thus it is easy to surrender the initiative to the opposition. That the Socceroos completely dominated the first 20 minutes of play in this way is testament to their attitude.
Japan’s awakening was inevitable and it was made easier in the 13th minute when Mark Milligan replaced the injured Bresciano. Bresciano is a player Australia lacks; a dynamic midfielder. He can defend and attack equally well and in doing so has become our most important player.
In the absence of Brett Holman he adequately, but not completely, fills Australia’s central attacking hole. Once he went off Australia had no ability to hold the ball in attack and so forward movements became even more rushed and predictable.
Japan, by the 25th minute were into the game.
They forced Australia to sit in a defensive box formation deep in their own half. They patiently tried to unlock the tight Australian defence, yet were not as composed as they usually were.
Endo, sitting at the base of the midfield, is usually so good at ‘reloading’ a Japanese attack.
However, he was stifled by one of either Cahill or Brosque who tried to pick him up as much as possible.
This move, along with tenacious disciplined defending and a sub-standard pitch, took the potency out of Japan’s forward movement.
However, the outrageously good Honda and Kagawa still caused considerable problems.
They, along with Endo on numerous occasions, were able to flick the ball to the side unguarded by Australia’s defensive box (a formation of four defenders behind the four midfielders) and allow Nagamoto and others to charge to goal.
This was particularly emphasised on the Blue Samurai’s right side where Kagawa attempted to expose Jade North. North held up fairly well in the end and on a couple of occasions even managed to dispossess Kagawa, Manchester United’s latest signing.
Luke Wilshire on the right side of midfield used his supreme fitness to help out North as much as possible.
The second half saw Australia begin to tire. Endo and Honda were dominating the midfield. Valeri and Milligan were having unimpressive games. Too easily Japan managed to dominate their central attacking hole. This was amplified in the 56th minute when Milligan was sent off for a questionable second yellow card.
Tim Cahill, who was unbelievable all game, was forced to drop back into midfield in Australia’s defensive structure. The extra man meant that Australia tired rapidly and Brosque was now alone in pressuring the Japanese higher up the park. Therefore Japan controlled the ball easier in more advanced positions.
Australia maintained their eight-man block in front of goal and it worked reasonably well. The Socceroos were content to allow the Japanese space on the flanks to cross, as they were confident they had the aerial power to deal with it.
This tactic ultimately held up and along with the aforementioned reasons Japan lacked potency. The goal came from a defensive lapse from the freshly introduced Nikita Rukyavytsa.
All night the Japanese had taken their corners short and no one tracked the run of the receiver. Once Japan had the ball on the corner of the box two Australian players went to him. One of them, in this case, Rukyavysta should’ve stayed with Honda who took the corner.
Therefore, Honda had a clear run into the box that found Kurihara to turn the ball in.
Australia was in a dire situation but they were not to be denied. Wilkshire converted a penalty in the 69th minute after Kurihara held Alex Brosque in the box. It was a line ball decision.
Ironically, Australia had the best chances for the rest of the game with Ogenovski hitting the crossbar. Japan controlled both the ball and the tempo yet were horrendously exposed by long balls and rapid attacking.