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 @ 9:16am
      G Knight said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

      The last 6 WCQs over the past week, including Italy v Sweden today, have been 0-0 draws. Another 2005 shootout on the cards??

      • November 14th 2017 @ 9:51am
        Nemesis said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:51am | ! Report

        This is NOT true.

        The last 2 WCQs over the past week have included

        Congo 1-1 Uganda
        Ghana 1-1 Egypt

        • Roar Guru

          November 14th 2017 @ 10:34am
          spruce moose said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:34am | ! Report

          For the pedants…

          The last six PLAY OFF games have been 0-0 draws.

          • November 14th 2017 @ 1:13pm
            LuckyEddie said | November 14th 2017 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

            Spruce Nemesis will disagree with anyone who says the world is round.

            • November 14th 2017 @ 11:09pm
              Redondo said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:09pm | ! Report

              Nemesis is obviously too polite to reply so I will disagree with you. The world is actually not round – it is an oblate spheroid.

          • Roar Rookie

            November 14th 2017 @ 4:42pm
            Grobbelaar said | November 14th 2017 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

            Thank you for the clarification SM.

            Once again, a nil-all draw tomorrow night is definitely worth a plunge.

    • November 14th 2017 @ 9:28am
      Redondo said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

      On point 3, I’d swap Leckie for Irvine (matches energy and would create more chances) and Degenek for Wright (avoid anxiety attacks every time Wright gets the ball).

      • Roar Guru

        November 14th 2017 @ 1:20pm
        Griffo said | November 14th 2017 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

        I’m glad I’m not the only one Redondo who gets nervous with Wright on the ball, looking to pass through the press to a midfield receiver…

        • November 14th 2017 @ 3:12pm
          Albo said | November 14th 2017 @ 3:12pm | ! Report

          I have long had a similar view of Wright, though I thought he played very well last week in Honduras.

        • November 14th 2017 @ 11:29pm
          Redondo said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:29pm | ! Report

          My family – atheists all – only come together in prayer when Bailey’s on the ball.

    • Roar Rookie

      November 14th 2017 @ 9:33am
      The Phantom Commissioner said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

      Well Stuart i seem to have found someone who agrees we should stick with the same starting 11.

    • November 14th 2017 @ 10:00am
      Another Paul said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:00am | ! Report

      ” 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.”

      I don’t know if you meant it this way but if the manager and the players are reading the media to be “reminded,” I would think they don’t have a chance at all.

    • November 14th 2017 @ 11:31am
      Lionheart said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:31am | ! Report

      Good article Stu. You’ve set the bar high here, for your future articles.
      Four silver stars from me.

    • November 14th 2017 @ 11:34am
      Soton said | November 14th 2017 @ 11:34am | ! Report

      Agree with some of this but most importantly the pitch worked more against Honduras than Australia and there were 2 very key players missing. The Honduran team will also be somewhat liberated playing away from their home crowd.
      The key for me is simply the team selection by Ange and to be honest I am getting tired of waiting for him to get it right.
      If we stick with a striker who is just below A-League standard and simply not consistent enough then we need to pump the midfield full of potential goal scorers and that plays into the Honduran plans.
      However on the plus side Luongo & Irvine both provided penetration by actually running at the defence in game 1. Something sadly lacking recently.
      On that basis I would agree to sticking to a very similar line up as Game 1 but with only Luongo or Irvine. We cannot carry them both in midfield especially early on and Irvines lack of technical ability could cost us dearly by opening up the counter with our lack of pace in Central Mid to cover it.
      I’d go for Leckie in for Risdon, Rogic in for Irvine and anybody in for Juric, perhaps Timmy to force Honduras back early and open it up for Luongo and Rogic.
      Please oh please do not play Kruse he fails over and over and over and is simply not up to the job.
      Now you know he is going to start and score a hat trick 😉

      Mind you give me free reign to choose the squad and I’ll pick a balanced team. What’s wrong with Curtis Goode did he lose a leg at Newcastle United?

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