Tim Cahill sent off in Socceroos' World Cup opener

Australia's Tim Cahill reacts after getting a red card during the World Cup group D soccer match between Germany and Australia at the stadium in Durban, South Africa, Sunday, June 13, 2010. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

In the wake of Australia’s embarrassing loss to Germany, I’ve been inundated with queries, from here and South Africa, from those wanting to know my thoughts on what went wrong. My simple answer has been a question: hasn’t it been coming?

Anyone who has looked hard enough, taken the blinkers off, will have seen the signs building up over the past four years, with the debacle that was Graham Arnold at the 2007 Asian Cup followed by two and half years of turgid play under Pim Verbeek.

A manager bereft of attacking ideas might have been a pragmatic choice to take us to the World and Asian Cups, and Verbeek at least served that purpose.

It was important we went back, even if only to remind the country how much work is still ahead.

Foremost it is about developing managers who can develop the players, who can then combine with a home-grown manager and bring competitiveness at the highest level. In time it might lead to success.

Steps have been taken, but there are many more to make.

Anyone who has been watching World Cups for any more than five minutes will know that the level of play required to be successful is at such a high level, you have to bring your absolute A game. Anything less is never going to be enough.

The word is Verbeek has sent contacts all around the world to scout our group opponents. No stone was left unturned, no expense spared, we’ve been told.

If that’s the case, one really has to question the technical knowledge around the Socceroos when you see the net result of this effort.

Did they even watch the Bosnia-Herzegovina friendly, and if so, why didn’t they have a plan for Mesut Ozil?

Did they not know that he likes to start at the front line, drop off into midfield or out to the right, get on his precocious left peg, and either inject himself with a killer ball or killer run beyond the defence, or both?

It certainly seemed they had no idea what was coming, let alone how to deal with it.

The same can be said of much of the football fraternity, who, whether through blind ignorance or the burning desire to replicate the feel-good factor of four years ago, refused accept the evidence, claiming we could and would get something.

False hope was built, somewhat irresponsibly.

After some heady success, the heavy loss is a reality check, yet another wake-up call.

The scouting report on Ghana

If anyone thinks it’s going to get much easier against The Black Stars of Ghana, the sad reality, based on the evidence of their opening match win over Serbia, is that it won’t.

While they mightn’t have flowed potently in attack, like the Germans, Milan Rajevac has the team very well organised and ticking beautifully in defence.

Particularly catching the eye was tall central defender Isaac Vorsah, who sat alongside John Mensah, John Pantsil and Hans Sarpei. They dealt with everything in the air and defended deep enough that Serbia were never able to get in behind. Not that the very disappointing Milos Krasic even had a crack.

While Ghana play with a three man central midfield, they only have one, Anthony Annan, sitting. The other two, Kevin Prince Boateng and Kawadwo Asamoah, are advanced and scattered, in touch with the two wide men, Prince Tagoe and Andre Ayew.

Annan started everything and looked an adequate enough replacement for Michael Essien.

While it was far from a great game, Ghana looked organised and functional enough and will take some breaking down.

Asia’s finest?

In my preview of the World Cup in the latest edition of Half-Time Heroes, I wrote of one of my great hopes, which was to see a couple of Asian teams progress out of the group stage, and at least one of them make it to the Quarter finals.

Looking at the draw, the most obvious bets were South Korea and Japan, and after the first round of games, it appears they are on track.

The Socceroos task looked difficult before, almost impossible now, especially if you decide to read anything into the body language between the Verbeek and Mark Bresciano at training the day after the night before.

South Korea have been super impressive, both in qualifying and pre-tournament, and underlined this with a dynamic display against Greece, in keeping with what we saw against the Roos last year.

Right back Cha Du-Ri and captain Park Ji-Sung were particularly dynamic, while it was great to see the front two, Yeom Ki Hun and Park Chu Young, working the house down.

Meanwhile, if you think Verbeek is under the pump, Takeshi Okoda has been under all sorts of pressure back home, but his team responded with a rousing win over Cameroon and are now in the box seat to go through with the Netherlands.

What I was particularly looking for in the final 10 or 15 minutes was to see whether Japan had the mental toughness to hold onto their lead, remembering they crumbled in the opener four years ago.

The truth is it was a bit panicky, but with the help of the crossbar and some excellent work from the back four, led by central towers, Marcus Tulio Tanaka and Yuji Nakazawa, two players I’ve been long fond of, they held on.

Also impressing in screening the defence were holding midfielder Yuki Abe and captain Makato Hasebe, while in attack there were promising signs from goal-scorer Keisuke Honda, Yoshito Okubo and right-sided Daisuke Matsui.

Here’s hoping both kick-on, flying the flag for Asia.

Capello the master tactician?

Fabio Capello was able to get England through to South Africa impressively, but question marks have been raised about some of his selections, both before and since arriving in South Africa.

Of course, much of the attention has been on Robert Green, but I was absolutely shocked to see Jamie Carragher in the final 23, let alone on the field against the dynamic Americans after the injury to Ledley King.

Naturally, it was no surprise to see Jozy Altidore skin him.

After a very average season at Liverpool, it was a strange to see Capello go back in time by selecting him. Surely Michael Dawson should be ahead in the pecking order?

A young man’s World Cup

Seeing the impact Eljero Elia made off the bench against Denmark on Monday night was further evidence of the generational shift taking place on the pitch in South Africa.

Of course, we all saw how Mesut Ozil, Thomas Mueller, Sami Khedira and Holger Badstuber toyed with the Roos, but there have been other impressive performances from the kids.

Think Giovani Dos Santos, Carlos Vela and Efrain Juarez (all Mexico) on the opening night, Lionel Messi and Angel di Maria (Argentina), Lukman Haruna (Nigeria), Isaac Vorsah and Andre Ayew (both Ghana), and Robbie Findley, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley (all USA).

Even the much-maligned “old” Italians featured some new blood in Claudio Marchisio and Domenico Criscito.

Are the A-League officiators watching?

It’s widely acclaimed that the standard of officiating in last season’s A-League was the worst yet, with the amount of incorrect offside decisions particularly glaring.

To that end, I do hope the FFA is investing time to highlight to our officials the work of the men in South Africa, which I think has been excellent in the main (other than Tim Cahill’s red), especially the off-side calls. Long may it continue.

The defending champions make impressive start

Germany, as we well know, where superb, while Argentina, with Messi in full flow, offered great potential in attack (despite Maradona’s bizarre decision to start Jonas Guiterrez at right back).

But another former winner that didn’t really feature in the pre-tournament tips was Italy, and I thought they were rather impressive in an excellent game against Paraguay yesterday morning.

While they haven’t yet found the solution up front, what was so impressive was the commitment, hunger and will to win. They are here to play, and no-one more that the skipper. After a poor season domestically, I thought Fabio Cannavaro was excellent, the work of a real winner.

Elsewhere there was real aggression and intent from the likes of Gianluca Zambrotta, Daniele de Rossi and Simone Pepe, while Riccardo Montolivo offered moments of genuine quality. Never write them off. They will improve.

Set piece spray

One of the main reasons the goal average is down to 1.6 per game (18 goals from the first 11 games) is the new Jabulani. What has been most noticeable is the number of free-kicks, even from quality dead-ball specialists like Wesley Sneijder and Lionel Messi, being sprayed over.

I can only recall one free-kick, from Algeria’s Nadir Belhadj, that required a quality save.

Even the general play shooting from long distance has been more miss than hit.

Tony Tannous has been keeping his usual close eye on all the goings-on in South Africa. Join Tony at noon today for a live Q & A on these or any other World Cup topics you’d like to discuss. Leave a comment or question now or at 12 noon, when Tony joins.

Tony Tannous
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The Crowd Says (70)

  • June 16th 2010 @ 3:01am
    Alders said | June 16th 2010 @ 3:01am | ! Report

    I think we need to question three things.

    1. The coach.
    2. The age of some of our players.
    3. The quality of our players.

    Then consider what Australia’s position in world football probably is. Even then the loss to Germany by such a margin is bad but is it really that bad given these three considerations?

    • Columnist

      June 16th 2010 @ 11:56am
      Tony Tannous said | June 16th 2010 @ 11:56am | ! Report

      Hi Alders, thanks for the question, all those points are very valid in my mind, but the disappointment here comes from the performance rather than the result. In the build up I suggested that we shouldn’t be too disappointed with a narrow loss provided the performance was rousing and would give us a lift for Ghana game.

      The reference was the Brazil game in 2006, when we lost, but afterwards I went around the Allianz Arena celebrating, so good did I think the performance was against the then reigning champs. I knew it would give the lads confidence ahead of the Croatia game, and I was disappointed by the despondent faces among the Roos fans. We should have been celebrating the performance, taking it to Brazil.

      In fact, I expected a loss here and tipped a 2-0, but was looking for a good confidence building performance, like North Korea this morning.

      • June 16th 2010 @ 4:35pm
        Alders said | June 16th 2010 @ 4:35pm | ! Report

        I agree Tony. I think we all hoped for a draw but the realists among use really expected a fighting loss. They will regroup though and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we made it through.

  • Roar Rookie

    June 16th 2010 @ 3:46am
    SideShowBob said | June 16th 2010 @ 3:46am | ! Report

    It will take a true test of character and inner resolve for this team and the players to get up and get the result versus Ghana, and bring it home against Serbia. I watch with great interest.

    • Columnist

      June 16th 2010 @ 11:58am
      Tony Tannous said | June 16th 2010 @ 11:58am | ! Report

      Good on you SSB, that’s what the boys need, support. I have been flying the colours even more proudly since the loss. I too hope the players can summon the right mental state to take this game on positively. We can’t play afraid.

  • June 16th 2010 @ 5:24am
    Julio said | June 16th 2010 @ 5:24am | ! Report

    I 100 percent agree. The football is out of touch completely here. No one gets to see anything to do with the socceroos until the world cup unless they have foxtel. All they see is this bitter disappointment after 4 years of playing here and there or failing here and there. Pim verrbick doesnt have a clue what he is doing at all kne wit from day one yet he was so arrogant to think he knew what was going on, that the A-leauge was this and that. He is pathetic and he knows it . He is a dishounest person to himself. He some how manages to stick to his guns. Boring to watch, no bresciano no kwell What the hell is he thinking.

    This is the Australian football federations fault for putting this monkey in charge simply for the reason that he is dutch. Beating Asian teams out of sheer height advantage isn’t a good indicator of a good coach.

    • Columnist

      June 16th 2010 @ 12:06pm
      Tony Tannous said | June 16th 2010 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

      Julio, I think by identifying FFA you’ve hit the mark. It’s not just the fact they hired Verbeek. Once again, I think that was a pragmatic choice to get us to South Africa, because we had to be there, but I think in the cold hard light of day, even they knew his chances of doing anything there were slim, especially after seeing the way he has gone about his business over the past 2.5yrs.

      But it’s the whole technicial set up around Verbeek. How much football know-how is there really? Who’s asking the tough technical questions?

      • June 16th 2010 @ 4:22pm
        Julio said | June 16th 2010 @ 4:22pm | ! Report

        To have a good team you have to have a good federation. This is the problem with many south American countries . Paraguay and Chile have changed this and they are now playing very well. The ignorant idea of some thinking that this guy is good because he is dutch is amazing to me. He was an assistant coach most of his career. Look I know what a person attitude is when just looking at him.
        Veerbik doesn’t’ really care much for this job after a year or 2. Its sad to say but hes only taking things a bit mroe seriously now the world cup is on and the damage is already done. It will take a year at least to fix this. This could kill football in Australia. It came down to simple and silly mistake of putting this guy in charge. Australia have the money they should bring in a BIG coach. Any coach from south America or europe that has a good track record with success with big teams or clubs. It will be expensive but it will most certainly pay off.

  • Roar Guru

    June 16th 2010 @ 6:45am
    Greg Russell said | June 16th 2010 @ 6:45am | ! Report

    I’ve always liked your work Tony, but a few comments on this piece:

    1. I only saw the last 10 minutes of Italy vs Paraguay, but all I saw in that time was a bunch of desperate but impotent Azzurri, rather similar to the French in their first game. Were the Italians really genuinely impressive before this?

    2. World Cups have almost always been for teams with a group of dynamic young players. France in 2002 are a classic example of a team that forgot this. In this context it’s interesting that Brazil have the oldest team at this World Cup. And I would have made this comment even before tonight’s thoroughly underwhelming display against the might of North Korea.

    3. Having lived in Germany for the last 6 months, I agree completely with your analysis that the Australians seem to have done no homework on the Germans.

    4. Can’t agree with the Pim bashing, and I’m surprised that so many respected voices at The Roar are taking what really looks like a xenophobic approach: blame the outsider rather than accept that the problems lie with the cattle within. Pim has taken Australia to its highest ever world ranking, and he got us through a qualifying campaign in an untroubled way against teams that you yourself praise above (Japan and, even if not directly a qualifying opponent of ours, South Korea). OK, so Pim gambled tactically against Germany and lost. But does anyone really believe that different tactics and personnel would have changed much against Germany on this particular evening? Pim has done wonderful work with Australia, even if the product has been unfashionable. He is paid for results, not for looking good. Nothing about our under-age results in the last few years – remember our turgid performances in Beijing? – suggests that Pim is guilty of holding back a wave of young players like Germany now has.

    • Roar Guru

      June 16th 2010 @ 9:45am
      AndyRoo said | June 16th 2010 @ 9:45am | ! Report

      Good article Tony and good Comments Greg

    • June 16th 2010 @ 11:12am
      Phutbol said | June 16th 2010 @ 11:12am | ! Report

      Disagree Greg. Tactically naive is what the performance was. Yes, Germany are better than us, yes we probably would’ve lost if we stuck with the normal tactics, but 1 or 2-0 might have put us in a with a chance to go through on goal difference with a win over Ghana and a draw with Serbia. Now its win both or go home pretty much. Or spank one of them by 3-4 goals which aint gonna happen.

      Pim should have exhaustively tested that structure before puttting it in play in the WC finals for goodness sakes. he had enough games to do it.

      And its really not the loss as such but what it does to confidence and self-belief. I dont agree with Fozz’s ranting on TWG shootout today, but Craig Johnston’s comments about being ‘spooked’ in so far as they had no idea how to play the tactics they were being asked to is spot-on.

      NZ are a classic example of executing what you know well and doing the simple things. ok Slovakia arent Germany but NZ stayed close enough for the entire game against a decidedly better opponent, and pinched a result at the end. If ever there was game that we should have adopted that sort of tactic (ie our ‘normal’ game plan), this was it.

      • Columnist

        June 16th 2010 @ 12:44pm
        Tony Tannous said | June 16th 2010 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

        And its really not the loss as such but what it does to confidence and self-belief.

        Spot on Phutbol. If things were hunky dory, that performance wouldn’t have happened.

    • June 16th 2010 @ 11:23am
      sheek said | June 16th 2010 @ 11:23am | ! Report


      Welcome back to one of “the voices of reason”.

      In your absence there appears to have been an increase of cyber trashers, or anonymous bullies, on The Roar, which is unfortunate. Constructive argument &/or criticism is not their game, just personal, indiscriminate insults.

    • June 16th 2010 @ 12:15pm
      Brett McKay said | June 16th 2010 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

      welcome back to THE voice of reason, I’d argue Sheek!!

      welcome back indeed Mr Russell, always good to hear from you in these forums. Though I suspect being an Australian in Gemany might not be so much fun currently??

      • Roar Guru

        June 16th 2010 @ 12:20pm
        AndyRoo said | June 16th 2010 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

        Time to bring out the “choice bro’s” perhaps

    • Columnist

      June 16th 2010 @ 12:25pm
      Tony Tannous said | June 16th 2010 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

      Greg, thanks for joining.

      1. Regarding Italy, I was impressed. They usually start slow, so a draw was always a possibility. If you have seen any of Juventus this season you will know that the Chiellini-Cannavaro axis has looked poor, so I was expecting the likes of Barrios and Santa Cruz to really hurt them, but I never saw that. I saw committment, passion, will to win – a real wionners mentality. Even when they went a goal down (De Rossi left his man) they just rolled up their sleeves and went even harder. I was also pleased to see Lippi rejuvenate his side (on the bench were Gattuso, Pirlo and Cameronesi). Paraguay a a very solid outfit and I felt it was a high quality game, so for that reason I was impressed. A bit to work on, and Di Natale made a difference late I reckon.

      2. Re the Brazil 11, it looked ponderous at times, but most of that was coming from Kaka and Gilberto. Robinho was dynamic, as was Elano, while Nilmarf had an impact off the bench. The thing about successful World Cups is that teams tend to evolve throughout the tourni, so guys like Ramires and Nilmar may yet get more game-time. I agree, managers must rejuventate and sticking with the old guard, because they were successful, is a sure way to fail. The big managers make the tough calls.

      3. Apparently they did, apparently!

      4. We definitely don’t have a a golden generation coming through like Germany, very few do. Success at 17s, 19s and 21s…But Pim has brought in upwards of 100 players in his 2.5yrs and the sum of that he sticks with the same 11 from 4 years ago. Not one single youngster has been moulded into the starting 11. It smacks of player power. A good manager gets the absolute best out of every player and his playing group, and builds youngsters. I recently took in a replay of the impressive win over Ireland and couldnt believe how comfortable Matthew Spiranovic looked. Granted he hasn’t played much, but neither has Moore. A good manager would have given Spironavic the confidence to do the job, he’s clearly got the talent, just back him, have faith in him, encourage him.

    • June 16th 2010 @ 1:07pm
      Greg said | June 16th 2010 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

      I agree the blame the foreign coach mentality is xenophobic. Craig Foster in particular has acted disgracefully.

      Why has no-one blamed Tim Cahill, his challenge was also a disgrace, how can we all say it was harsh when it was a tackle from behind. If Cahill was English he would be vilified in the press for his rash tackle.

      • Roar Guru

        June 16th 2010 @ 1:35pm
        ItsCalledFootball said | June 16th 2010 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

        That’s a bit tough on Cahill.

        Everyone except the referee thought it wasn’t a straight red card.

        If you look at the replays it clearly shows that Cahill pulled out of the tackle and bent his legs up to avoid a collision – he couldn’t stop in time and hit him with his knee.

        We lost because Germany is a better team and we didn’t have the defensive formation to contain their attacking midfielders and Schwarzer and Neill had their worst games in years.

        • June 17th 2010 @ 2:35am
          Colin N said | June 17th 2010 @ 2:35am | ! Report

          To be fair I agree with Greg – Cahill would be villified if he was English.

          When Beckham was sent off in 98, it wasn’t a red card offence, but was blamed for the defeat.

          • June 17th 2010 @ 2:57am
            Roger Rational said | June 17th 2010 @ 2:57am | ! Report

            Yeah, but Rooney was given a relatively easy ride in ’06. I think these things are more to do with the personality of the player involved. I reckon the likes of Cockerill in the SMH would slaughter Harry Kewell in such a situation.

    • June 16th 2010 @ 1:30pm
      punter said | June 16th 2010 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

      Greg in all seriousness, we did not expect to beat Germany. Was there any other players we could’ve used that may have made a difference, no probably not.
      But in all honesty the scoreline flatter us, it could’ve been easily 6-7 nil & Germany also closed up shop early after getting to 3 nil. This is the issue, we had no fight, we were not there. I was maybe hoping against hope, yes we got results, but the whole campaign we looked ugly, even the Asian qualifiers we looked ugly. Surely the friendlies he’d free up the shackles, we looked ugly. I kept believing, we were getting the results. But the other night not only didn’t we get the result but it was dreadful. So far with one group left to play, we have looked the worst team in the competition & even the German press must be wondering what happened to that wonderful side from 06.

    • June 16th 2010 @ 1:36pm
      Joe FC said | June 16th 2010 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

      Nice work Greg Russell.

  • June 16th 2010 @ 7:55am
    todd said | June 16th 2010 @ 7:55am | ! Report

    Hi all I tend to agree with Greg Russells comments about Pim – its unfair to compare Guus’s squad and the curcumstances of 2006 with the present. While I agree the Aussies were wrong tactically what options do we have up front? Sure Garcia was a poor choice and its obvious why we left Kewell on the bench (he assumed we’d lose to germany with or without Kewell and we will see him against Ghana), but with injured Bersciano and Kennedy not up to it we are not worls class in the area of strikers. Attacking midfielders different story.
    We have had a charmed run through the Asia qualifers and were underestimated (even by ourselves) in 2006. Reality has hit home and we need to clear the decks and plan for the future

  • June 16th 2010 @ 8:50am
    Mick of Newie said | June 16th 2010 @ 8:50am | ! Report

    Greg, good call. Pim has actually favoured younger players when he can. Rukavytsaya and Vidosic over Stejovski, Jedinak over Burns. His problem has been a lack of talent and the big hopes (Djite, Spiranovic) being frozen out at second tier clubs. I presume the return to Craig Moore was made out of desperation as the contenders made bad club choices and went backwards.

    Yes a clearing of the decks is required but we will also need a lowering of expectations. 4 years ago we had Schwarzer, Kewell, Cahill, Emerton, Neill, Viduka, Lazaridis, Skoko playing EPL, Aloisi in La Liga, Bresc, Grella and Kalac in Serie A, Moore at Rangers, Culina at PSV. Most in there mid to late 20’s most in the first team.

    In 4 years time if we have 2 or 3 players in a big 4 league it will be a surprise.

    • Columnist

      June 16th 2010 @ 12:33pm
      Tony Tannous said | June 16th 2010 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

      Mick, The clearing of the decks should have happened throughout the qualifiers. The team should have evolved from Germany and should be settled. Pim has realised this now, but it’s far too late. The youngster you speak of are all fringe, and even though Vidosic has beern mighty impressive whenever he has played, he sticks with the old guard, and when he does bring someone in, it Garcia, who, really, what does he see in him?

      • Roar Guru

        June 16th 2010 @ 12:52pm
        AndyRoo said | June 16th 2010 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

        I have always stuck up for Holminho but I fail too see anything in Garcia.

        I guess he plays in the EPL but I would love an article about his stengths and what he brings to the team. …unless i’m looking too ahrd and he’s just been chosen as a competent fill in.

        • Columnist

          June 16th 2010 @ 1:01pm
          Tony Tannous said | June 16th 2010 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

          Andy, little more than legs. My thoughts were he shouldn’t have been in the 23, Carle is far far a better footballer and you will see next season how a competent manager who wants to control a game will use him.

          As I wrote at the time, how much respect can Tim Cahill have for Verbeek given he was clamouring for Carle’s inclusion in the squad, on more than one occassion. Under a serious manager, those comments from players would never have been allowed.

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