Decision time for Holger Osieck
“Disappointing”, “a wake-up call” and “a towelling” were the words being bandied about following the Socceroos’ convincing 3-1 loss to Scotland this morning.
Coach Holger Osieck did not hold back when asked in the post-match presser, while Fox Sports pundits and former Socceroos Mark Bosnich and Robbie Slater were equally forthright.
“We were completely outplayed, especially in the second half” was the view of Bosnich, who described the game as a “big warning sign”.
Slater said it was a “disappointing” performance from Australia.
Osieck didn’t mince his words, with Socceroos flat against a team ranked 24 places below them by FIFA – though the validity of the FIFA rankings are a topic for another day.
“It’s not about the result, it’s a matter of the performance and I expected a little bit more,” the German said.
“Our display today was very, very… basic, let’s call it that.
“We were not in the position to play constructive balls into the danger area, the understanding when we have to change positions was not there, and we gave Scotland too much room in attacking midfield positions in particular.
“Even during half-time when we talked about it we didn’t actually change.
“I don’t know the reason but the bottom line is we played very poorly today and I consider it a wake-up call and we have to improve a lot in order to be ready for the upcoming qualifiers.
“It’s never good to lose but maybe it’s come at the right time.”
Osieck is right on the money and while the players were poor, he has to take some of the blame.
Why did he play two defensive midfielders in Jedinak and Valeri in the second half? Why did he select players out of position, again? Why does he persist with David Carney?
Australia’s left-hand side was incredibly weak and Carney is, and never will be, a left-back. Just because Scott Chipperfield was converted to that role with success, it doesn’t mean Carney can.
The Socceroos right-hand side wasn’t much better. Sure Rhys Williams can play right back (he can play just about everywhere except in goals and up front), but he is more comfortable in central defense or central midfield.
Saša Ognenovski had a terrible game and was responsible for two of the goals. While undoubtedly he had some fantastic matches for Australia, at 33, is he a long-term Socceroo? Surely giving Williams a go at stopper, or bringing in an in-form player like Luke DeVere makes more sense.
That would have allowed Ryan McGowan to start at right back and Jason Davidson at left back, and we would have been able to see more of the pair and gauge whether they are up to this level at the moment. Lucas Neill needs a faster partner in defence; with Ognebovski, the pair are just too slow together.
Luke Wilkshire is a not an attacking-enough midfielder, he is better as a fullback, and it would have been great to see the likes of Chris Herd in that role if injury permitted. Surely Matthew Leckie is someone who can add some pace and flair into our attack.
Without Holman and Bresciano, our two best creative players, in the second half the Socceroos crumbled. But the truth is were on the back foot in the first half as Scotland moved the ball with ease, and only a screamer from Bresc put the Scots on the backfoot.
Osieck is right is that it is not about the result, though it is our fourth game in a row without a win. It is about the performance, but unfortunately the only exceptional performance in those four games has been against Japan.
Australia’s inability to hold on to possession was worrying, with simple mistakes and bad touches aplenty.
To their credit, the players themselves have acknowledged that the performance wasn’t good enough and that they have work to do.
There were some positives of course – the Middle East has not dulled Bresciano’s pure quality, Scott McDonald looked impressive but without the much-needed goal and Alex Brosque was good.
But in my mind too many of the Socceroos are being picked on reputation and not on form.
Now the attention turns to Lebanon, and the upcoming vital World Cup qualifier against Jordan. Holger has some big decisions to make, and Australia waits to see what kind of performance the Socceroos produce in Beirut on September 6.