How many more wake up calls do Osieck and the Socceroos need?
Holger Osieck has selected his core Socceroos, with few surprises for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers (Image: AP)
Three days out from the start of the English Premier League might not be the ideal time for a friendly, but for the Socceroos this morning’s 3-1 loss to Scotland in Edinburgh marked the continuation of a series of disappointing recent performance.
Only in Brisbane against Japan, pumped up, on the front foot, stung by the criticism from poor work in their previous two performances, did the Socceroos deliver anything resembling the type of passionate display we’ve come to expect.
And even then the performance was more about the quality of character rather than the quality of the football.
Holger Osieck, steaming in his post match commentary to Fox, pointed to the poor ball retention and the resultant pressure that’s place on the team, and there’s no doubt thats a concern.
The German and his skipper described it as a wake up call.
The concern for watching fans is that we’ve had a few too many wake up calls over recent times.
When the stakes are high and they need a performance or result, this team inevitably produces the goods.
Too often though, in between, performance have been marked by a lack of quality, and more worryingly, a lack of urgency.
Only Brett Holman and Alex Brosque in the first half really offered any of the sort of tempo that would be expected at international level.
While the ball retention was poor, as worrying was the complete inability of the midfield to stifle the Scottish playmakers, particularly in the second half, when Mile Jedinak was introduced for Mark Breciano, joining Carl Valeri in a holding pattern.
While not known for their ability to enable a team on the ball, the two have at least been a holding strength in recent years, but here they were as invisible off the ball as they’ve often been on it.
Charlie Adam, in particular, had a field day, spraying balls left and right, bringing the fullbacks into play.
While much was made about the inability to keep the pill, for me the biggest problem is the structure of the back four.
Not blessed with pace, the central defensive pair of Lucas Neill and Sash Ognenovski tend to retreat, or sit on their 18 yard box.
This creates acres of space in the centre of midfield. Jedinak and Valeri couldn’t cope with the Scottish onslaught.
They were not helped, in truth, by the wide midfielders, Luke Wilkshire and Robbie Kruse, who didn’t ask enough questions in attack and allowed the Scottish fullbacks to gallop forward at will.
Tucked in, they created another problem, making the Socceroos formation far too narrow.
This was a gift to Daniel Fox and Alan Hutton, who at times were made to look like Dani Alves and Fabio Coentrao.
The fact Osieck was either unable to fix this, or more worryingly, see this, highlights his tactical limitations.
The dilemma for the manager is that there isn’t exactly a bevy of ready-made internationals begging, via their performances at club level, to be a part of the set up.
Over the past couple of years he’s given many, including Matt Spiranovic and Michael Zullo a fair crack.
Only Matt McKay and Brosque have really cemented a first level spot. A few years back they might have made the squad.
Others, like Spiranovic and Rhys Williams continue to live on the edge, never really grasping their chances.
Osieck has hitherto proved, when it counts, he can motivate or cajole an experienced team to get the job done.
Here his experienced guys let him down, making his decision to not to introduce a few more fresh faces here more puzzling.
He is yet to give the Socceroos the face-lift many had hoped.
Right now, the Roos still has the feel of a team in decline rather than one on the up.
The conundrum, of course, is that Osieck can only work with what he has.
The question Australia has to grapple with is whether our best, right now, with so many not playing consistently, is good enough at international level or whether our manager has the ability to get the best out of them?
Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyTannousTRBA