The Roar
The Roar


Redemption all round as Jesus sends the Roos to Rio

Australia's Mark Schwarzer (centre) hugs Josh Kennedy. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
18th June, 2013
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With next year’s world cup being held in a country featuring the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, it was perhaps most fitting that a bloke nicknamed Jesus came off the bench to redeem what had often looked a statuesque qualifier and qualification campaign.

Indeed, it was a serious dose of redemption for not only the goal-scorer in Josh Kennedy, but for the man who brought him off the bench a few minutes earlier.

When the often maligned Holger Osieck introduced Kennedy for Tim Cahill, the man who had rescued the manager and his nation so often throughout this campaign and others, there was no hiding Cahill’s disappointment.

If it failed to come off and the result didn’t go Australia’s way, questions would undoubtedly have been asked of Osieck for taking off the man who has often been his go-to.

But Osieck was vindicated only a few minutes later when Mark Bresciano, after a neat build up down the right, drove into the rare glimmer of midfield space that presented, and, despite the calls for him to shoot, dinked a ball towards he penalty spot, where the unmarked  Kennedy was on hand to power a header past Noor Sabri.

It was also redemption for a man, in Kennedy, who had spent over a year out of the Socceroos fold recovering from injury.

Bidding his time on the bench for almost the entire three games against Japan, Jordan and Iraq, it was some impact when his number was eventually called.

It typified the strength of mentality that pervades a group that were able to recover, in the final straight, a campaign that was often looked lost.

In many ways, this match summed up the entire campaign; a struggle, followed by late glory.  


The winning goal was a huge relief not only for Osieck and his men, who has struggled to break down a very well-organised and spirited Iraq,  but for the 80,000 odd fans in the stadium, and millions watching on the box who endured more than 80 minutes  of tension.

The credit for that must go to Iraq and their manager Vladimir Petrovic, who put up a resilient performance and very formidable barrier.

Petrovic may have had his team decimated by the retirements of Younes Mahmoud and Nashat Akram, but it didn’t have as detrimental effect on his starting 11 plans as many imagined, with only four changes to the team that lost to a late Shinji Okazaki goal in Doha last week.

One of those was forced, with Alaa Abdul Zahra suspended after receiving two yellow cards.

It wasn’t so much the personnel that made the difference for Iraq but the tactics.

Petrovic had his side perfectly drilled to nullify the Roos, setting them up in a suffocating system that was essentially a 4-5-1, featuring a tight three-man central midfield that impressed in both defence and with the ball.

While the impressive Khaldoon Ibrahim was the deeper of the three, he worked closely with both Saif Salman and Saad Abdulameer to deny the likes of Brett Holman, Bresciano and Mark Milligan space.

When they had the ball, Khaldoon and Salman showed plenty of quality, keeping it for periods, further frustrating the Roos.


It might have been entirely different had Sabri not produced a sharp save to his right in the second minute to deny Cahill.

Had that Cahill chance gone in, or another one or two closer to half time, then it would have been a different game. Iraq would have been forced to come out and the Socceroos would have had more space.

But the frustration grew into the second half.

Particularly struggling to find any space  was Brett Holman, more suited to transition play than creating something against a packed nine-man defensive blanket.

Perhaps against his usual conservative approach, Osieck went for it and introduced the more creative technician in Tom Rogic, giving him half an hour to work his stuff.

In some ways, this was redemption for the many who had called for Rogic to get more game-time.

Within the space of two minutes, Rogic had had the ball at his feet three times, getting into solution positions each time. While the final product was lacking, it was an insight into his potential, and his time will undoubtedly come.

Australia will certainly hope it comes soon. While Osieck deserves credit for manoeuvring the Socceroos through the final three qualifiers, getting more things right than wrong, including his substitution of Cahill, there’s undoubtedly much improvement required in the build-up to Brazil.


Otherwise, we might be looking for a little more intervention from top of Rio’s Corcovado mountain next June.