Socceroos need to forget the passion – it’s all about KPIs

Stuart Thomas Columnist

By Stuart Thomas, Stuart Thomas is a Roar Expert

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    Despite all the media hype and fan emotion around the occasion, the reality is that there is a football game to be won on Wednesday – and all the passion, exuberance and vocalisation of support counts for nothing if the team fails to execute a tactically superior game to their opponents.

    San Pedro Sula saw that exact eventuality, unfortunately rewards on the scoreboard weren’t forthcoming and the stalemate must be broken in Sydney.

    The home pitch, atmosphere and conditions will no doubt play a role, as they did in Honduras, however, I am getting sick of hearing about the advantages the Socceroos have back in Australia and the subsequent victory that ‘should’ come their way.

    A sea of yellow and national fervour is fine, yet for the Socceroos to triumph, a few rather obvious key performance indicators need to be hit. Without them, the Hondurans will be in a position to pounce on what would be a wonderful victory away from home.

    1. Ignore the media
    Sadly, there will be a lot of people writing about football this week who do so infrequently. The hype around the game will steadily ramp up and members of the broader print media – whose commitment to football is about as reliable as the citizenship status of a Federal Minister – will become oracles of football knowledge.

    In that commentary, they will cite home advantage, a smooth surface, and the massive support of the local crowd as reasons why the Socceroos are ‘sure things’ to advance to the big dance in Russia next year.

    Nothing could be further from the truth and for every foolish journalist who seeks to climb aboard the wave of energy around the squad, let’s hope there are two level-headed types who ask tactical and technical questions that remind the manager and the players of the task at hand.

    2. Be awake early
    If Ange Postecoglou doesn’t use this as a mantra throughout the week I will be very surprised. Honduras started far better than the Socceroos and it took the Australians around 20 minutes to achieve some level of control over the midfield. In addition, Australia’s tendency to concede early has been something of a pattern in recent years.

    The worst-case scenario for the Socceroos is to concede an early goal, just as they seemed likely to do in the first leg.

    If the Aussies are serious about a place in Russia, the first quarter of the game is vital and they must play with a vigour befitting the desperation of the situation.

    Ange Postecoglou Football Australia Socceroos 2017

    AAP Image/Matt Roberts

    3. Stick with personnel
    The team that Postecoglou sent out onto the pitch in San Pedro Sula was as balanced, youthful and agile as any he has played in recent history. There was something refreshing about the make-up of the XI and it was greeted with praise by most pre-game pundits.

    It was an aggressive team that sought a result and, bar the glaring misses of the man up front, should have produced the desired outcome.

    Jackson Irvine, Bailey Wright, Massimo Luongo, Aziz Behich, Josh Risdon and Aaron Mooy are key cogs in the future, and have earned the right to take responsibility for this chapter in Australia’s footballing story.

    It’s also time for many to realise that our leader, Mile Jedinak, is exactly that. As loyal and consistent as Mark Milligan has been, the skipper brought a steel to the backbone of the midfield and, despite looking a little underdone, his physical presence was worth more than many will ever appreciate.

    With some familiar faces missing, namely Matthew Leckie and Robbie Kruse, perhaps we have come to the point where the next wave are ready, willing and able.

    Rushing the fresh legs back in might miss the point.

    Undoubtedly, Jedinak’s physical condition will be an issue, however, where possible, it might be prudent to allow the supporting cast to continue their journey. Using Tim Cahill off the bench and maintaining the balance through the midfield might serve the squad better than rebranding the team after such a polished performance on the road.

    4. Press, press, press
    When the Hondurans made their first two substitutions, they livened up in midfield and took away the Australian dominance of that space. As a result, the Socceroos looked more likely to concede.

    Once the fresh legs were matched, and the Socceroos started to regain some control of that area, the equilibrium was restored.

    The more defensive mindset they adopted and the clear drop in intensity could kill Australia’s chances of getting to Russia. Controlling leg one was great and the Hondurans were extremely lucky to escape with a draw, however any lapses in the middle of the park or apathy in terms of maintaining brisk ball movement could see the Hondurans presented with the chance to counter.

    Their athleticism presents an issue for our back three and the best way to eliminate that threat is to continue to attack in order to keep their potential weapons busy at the wrong end of the pitch.

    5. Relax, play football and whatever you do, don’t think about a shootout
    Most players in this squad would have sat transfixed to the television when John Aloisi slammed home the most famous penalty in Australia’s football history. Now, it is their turn to produce the same result, yet if romantic thoughts of that famous shootout enter their heads, the Socceroos might be doomed.

    John Aloisi celebrates scoring his penalty against Uruguay

    No Australian sports fans will ever forget ‘That Night’. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    This is a different contest at a different time and the glories of the past are now just that. Sure, take some inspiration from our greatest Socceroo team, yet live in the moment and drive home the advantage against Honduras.

    Throughout this campaign, there have been overt examples of frustration from our players as they have grappled with stacked defences hellbent on restricting our scoring. These expressions of frustration cannot be part of the body language.

    The Socceroos need to smile, play boldly and never panic, despite time potentially slipping away late in the game.

    Poise, perspective and precision will be the three keys.

    Just as your own immediate superior lays out a set of goals and objectives for you as an employee, the Socceroos need to meet a small and achievable set of KPIs in order to execute a methodical gameplan.

    Ticking off the above would go a long way towards sending the national team on an epic adventure to Russia in 2018.

    An adventure that we would all watch with hope and expectation.

    Stuart Thomas
    Stuart Thomas

    Stuart Thomas is a sports writer and educator who made the jump from Roar Guru to Expert in 2017. An ex-trainee professional golfer, his sporting passions are broad with particular interests in football, AFL and rugby league. His love of sport is only matched by his passion for gardening and self-sustainability. Follow him on Twitter @stuartthomas72.

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    The Crowd Says (76)

    • November 14th 2017 @ 7:20am
      Waz said | November 14th 2017 @ 7:20am | ! Report

      Great write up and I don’t disagree with any of them.

      However #3, while eminently sensible and desirable, may need further thought. The travel schedule of these players has been huge so it may be advantageous to have fresh legs in from the start – hopefully Ange gets this one right, only he knows whether the same XI is physically fit for this?

    • November 14th 2017 @ 7:29am
      Buddy said | November 14th 2017 @ 7:29am | ! Report

      I have enjoyed watching Robbie Kruse on many occasions but not in recent times for the Socceroos. Some might argue, he is due a decent game, I would just rather not risk him for 90 minutes this time around. Aus football at all levels lacks the clinical finishing required to win important games and I suppose that is why we still turn to TC as his conversion rate goes at least some way to balancing the books. If they take their chances…assuming they get a similar number to the first leg then life becomes a lot easier. Failure in the final third of the field will cause enormous frustrtion on and off the field and leave us once again on a knife edge!

    • November 14th 2017 @ 7:55am
      Onside said | November 14th 2017 @ 7:55am | ! Report

      and within 30 minutes we will know if Italy has missed out on qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in 50 years

      • November 14th 2017 @ 8:43am
        punter said | November 14th 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report

        Unbelieveable, Italy out!!!!

        • November 14th 2017 @ 8:55am
          Fadida said | November 14th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

          Yay!

          • November 14th 2017 @ 4:21pm
            AGO74 said | November 14th 2017 @ 4:21pm | ! Report

            Italy were out-Italy’d by the massive Swedish Volvo bus.

    • Roar Guru

      November 14th 2017 @ 7:57am
      Griffo said | November 14th 2017 @ 7:57am | ! Report

      Definitely agree with (1) – there’s confidence but a lot of the themes around the $1M flight, home, pitch, crowd, records, stats is that ‘we’ve got this’.

      We haven’t got anything yet. Not until the ref blows the whistle and the scoreboard says we’ve got at least one more goal than Honduras and we’re celebrating with our crowd, not slumped on the field in tears at what might have been.

      Positivity is good. I just hope this avalanche of media over-confidence doesn’t seep into camp and enter the team’s heads.

      The players at the moment seem to understand this, and that there is an opponent who equally wants to win.

      • November 14th 2017 @ 8:16am
        Waz said | November 14th 2017 @ 8:16am | ! Report

        Griffo

        “We haven’t got anything yet”. Well said – our biggest problem will be complacency.

        The highlights reel of missed chances in Honduras is nightmare viewing. It can’t be allowed to come back and haunt us, as you say – we haven’t got anything yet … other than a chance.

        • November 14th 2017 @ 4:22pm
          AGO74 said | November 14th 2017 @ 4:22pm | ! Report

          I can’t imagine Honduras playing as bad again. Honestly they were so poor last Saturday that even with all their disadvantages from flights and be Ng away from home etc I still think they’ll play better tomorrow.

      • Roar Guru

        November 14th 2017 @ 1:57pm
        Cousin Claudio said | November 14th 2017 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

        I can imagine what they’ll print if we lose.

    • November 14th 2017 @ 8:31am
      jamesb said | November 14th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      Off topic, is anyone keeping a close eye on Italy/Sweden? Italy need a goal, and theres 5 minutes plus stoppages left remaining

      • November 14th 2017 @ 8:45am
        jamesb said | November 14th 2017 @ 8:45am | ! Report

        Italy have been booted out of the world cup by Sweden. Arrivederci Italia. The last time they missed a world cup was in 1958, which was hosted by Sweden

        • November 14th 2017 @ 10:42pm
          j,binnie said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:42pm | ! Report

          jamesb – Don’t know if you are aware of the fact but that Swedish team that actually got to the World Cup final in 1958 had at least 6 players who played their football in the Serie A.
          Liedholm,,Nordahl and Skoglund played in Milan, Hamrin and Gren in Florence,and Gustavsson in Rome.
          Cheers jb.

          • November 14th 2017 @ 11:16pm
            jamesb said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:16pm | ! Report

            No i wasn’t aware of that. A bit before my time. That Swedish team must’ve had some quality players, as they ended up making the final but lose against Pele and Brazil.

      • Roar Rookie

        November 14th 2017 @ 9:01am
        Grobbelaar said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

        Yes, an entertaining nil-all draw; another nil-all draw yesterday to determine one of the spots, I reckon a nil-all draw tomorrow night is worth a plunge.

        Nil-all draws can be entertaining.

        • November 14th 2017 @ 9:14am
          chris said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:14am | ! Report

          That’s what happens when there is so much at stake. Its tense, game of inches, near misses, desperation defending.
          You wouldn’t know that because the sport you follow has very little at stake. Plus the fact that hundreds of points are scored you need a computer to keep track.

          • Roar Guru

            November 14th 2017 @ 11:10am
            spruce moose said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

            Fascinating insult to a person who’s profile lists only ‘Football’ as the sport he follows Chris.

            You really are a grub.

            • November 14th 2017 @ 11:25am
              Nemesis said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:25am | ! Report

              “Grobbelaar” is the newest name chosen by the person formerly known as “Mr (AFL) Football” who used to have the profile photo of Ted Whitten and used to come to this forum every day to berate & criticize the Game.

              Under the guise of Grobbelaar, he offers much more positive football comments. But, his former AFL persona does expose itself occasionally.

              • Roar Guru

                November 14th 2017 @ 11:37am
                spruce moose said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:37am | ! Report

                Ah, evidently I wasn’t aware of that.

                That said, Chris was still out of line.

              • November 14th 2017 @ 3:24pm
                chris said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

                Huh? How was I out of line? By outing someone who pretends to be a football fan and is constantly deriding any achievement by the national team?

              • Roar Guru

                November 14th 2017 @ 3:53pm
                spruce moose said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

                1. A nil-nil draw can be entertaining. So that is actually a true statement, and not a swipe at the game. Italy v Sweden was very entertaining. Not that you were watching – you were sharpening your axe instead.
                2. A 0-0 draw after 90 minutes is quite possible tomorrow (considering the stakes, and Australia’s recent penchant for wasting bona fide opportunities in front of goal) so that is also a statement with truth attached to it. If it was 0-0 away, it stands to reason it’s entirely likely 0-0 tomorrow is just as likely a chance.
                3. There was no deriding of the national team in that statement.
                4. There was no praising of AFL in that statement.

                You are, as usual, hyper defensive and ultra sensitive to anything that may possibly be potentially be viewed as an insult and then jumped straight into a demeaning code war barb.

              • Roar Rookie

                November 14th 2017 @ 4:39pm
                Grobbelaar said | November 14th 2017 @ 4:39pm | ! Report

                I honestly believe nil-all tomorrow night is worth a plunge.

              • November 14th 2017 @ 8:59pm
                chris said | November 14th 2017 @ 8:59pm | ! Report

                100% correct Spruce. Just one slight correction I was watching Italy v Sweden.
                I obviously get under your skin for you to call me a grub.

              • November 14th 2017 @ 9:21pm
                chris said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:21pm | ! Report

                Also, you defending Grob shows how naive you can be. He is an impostor on a football site with his constant jibes at the national team. I’m sure he thinks he is being funny and witty but he is just a pain and a nuisance. Why someone would spend so much time on here commenting for a game he ridicules says a lot about him.

        • Roar Guru

          November 14th 2017 @ 1:58pm
          Cousin Claudio said | November 14th 2017 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

          Maybe we can have a game with 100 goals and its all over by the second quarter like the Aussie Rules grand final. I switched it off and did some gardening at that point.

      • Roar Guru

        November 14th 2017 @ 1:19pm
        Griffo said | November 14th 2017 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

        Will Italy do a Germany and have deep, long look within and rebuild with what would be a national disaster for them?

        • November 14th 2017 @ 2:03pm
          Birdman said | November 14th 2017 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

          I sincerely hope so but vested interests run deep in the Italian FA so a green field re-set is unlikely IMHO.

          A decent coach would be a good start though – of those with a track record of success Ancelotti would be worth a shot but please don’t go near Macini.

    • November 14th 2017 @ 8:36am
      Rod Torres said | November 14th 2017 @ 8:36am | ! Report

      I walked into Rebel sports to buy a Socceroos shirt and they did not have the on display. They had to get them from the back storeroom! There is obviously not enough hype about the Socceroos big game!

      • Roar Rookie

        November 14th 2017 @ 9:41am
        The Phantom Commissioner said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

        Nah its just a crap kit, most people with any sense of style will stick with the 06 or 14 vintage.

      • November 14th 2017 @ 9:50am
        Nemesis said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

        @Rod Torres

        I don’t believe you. I regularly walk into Rebel Sports at the local shopping mall & there has never been an occasion when AUS Football Shirt is not displayed for sale.

        Never. Regardless of whether there is a match being played.

        I don’t believe you.

        • November 14th 2017 @ 10:50am
          Waz said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

          That was my thought as well – Retailers tend to have limited storerooms at the best of times with the business model being to store items “on the floor and on display”.

          1 million people watched the last home qualifier on tv – if Rebel can’t sell Roo shirts right now they should probably pack up.

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