Australia smash limp Czechs 4-0 in World Cup warm up

Evan Morgan Grahame Columnist

By Evan Morgan Grahame, Evan Morgan Grahame is a Roar Expert

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    Stepping out against a disinterested opponent always makes a team look good. But even so, Australia looked very, very good here.

    Mark Milligan’s versatility counts for him in a tournament situation. Bert van Marwijk has clearly decided Milligan’s best position is at centre back, which in turn means Mile Jedinak – though he didn’t appear in this game – will probably be used exclusively in the midfield during the tournament.

    Partnered with Trent Sainsbury, the centre back combo made for a pleasing pair on the ball, with both capable of passing confidently out of defence.

    The striker position is the most curious selection discussion; why call up Jamie Maclaren when Tomi Juric got injured – assuming Juric was first choice – if not to use him? Was Andrew Nabbout still auditioning in this friendly?

    Nabbout has now started two of the three matches under van Marwijk, both at striker. The former Jet isn’t really an out and out striker, at least he wasn’t used – outside of filling in when Roy O’Donovan went down – in that role at Newcastle.

    Is van Marwijk planning on utilising Nabbout’s energy and industry as a sort of disruptive influence in the forward line, a defensive striker, if such a thing exists?

    Certainly Nabbout is at his best charging up the pitch from deeper areas, or on the wings cutting inside. He isn’t the best at when it comes to straying offside either, a pretty crucial trait for a lone striker playing off the shoulder.

    A pragmatic operator, van Marwijk nurses an admiration for graft; the very criticisms levelled at his Dutch side, of how physical it was, how starkly it departed from the cherished aesthetic of Dutch football, are far less applicable to the van Marwijk Roos.

    Australia’s team is relatively limited, more suited to the agricultural; there is no shame, like the Dutch decried, in making the Roos, simply, hard to beat.

    Van Marwijk may see this approach as our best chance of getting a result, certainly against France, in the World Cup. Nabbout, Matt Leckie, Jackson Irvine, Dimi Petratos; they’re all workers, triers, capable of filling a deficit of quality with huff, puff and toil.

    Matthew Leckie

    (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

    The team settled immediately into a 4-4-1-1 formation when out of possession, with Rogic hanging ahead of a flat midfield four of Leckie, Aaron Mooy, Mass Luongo and Robbie Kruse, but behind the lone Nabbout up top. Nabbout was haring around helping his midfielders triple-team Czech players, pressuring pass-backs to the goalkeeper, and generally revealing the full capacity of his lungs. 

    Leckie and Kruse appeared to be fairly flat, almost defensive wingers to start with, level with the two centre midfielders.

    A defensive miscarriage appeared within five minutes, as the Czechs passed cleanly through the middle, finding huge gaps between the Sainsbury and Behich on the left. Only a scrambling slide tackle by Sainsbury thwarted things.

    It was an odd collapse onto the ball carrier by the Roo midfielders, allowing runners to streak beyond the lines, runners that were easily found with first time passing.

    It was clear the centre backs were, by design, to be incorporated into the passing build-up. Mark Milligan struck a lovely long pass up to a streaking Behich in the 12th minute, a few minutes after a fine sequence saw Milligan and Sainsbury combine with Mooy and Luongo to play their way out of a high Czech press.

    Socceroo Mark Milligan takes a shot on goal against South Africa

    Mark Milligan. (Peter Macalpine – Flickr)

    Multiple times the centre backs and central midfielders would pass triangles among themselves, arranged in a box formation in front of the defensive line, while the full backs crept up the pitch; all of them good passers with soft feet, the risk of turning the ball over with the full backs out of position is reduced, though by no means eliminated. Here’s an illustrated example of it from the second half.

    The opening goal was the product of the first real incidence of side-to-side passing for Australia. Milligan’s chipped balls, or speared passes into the final third from Mooy had been frequent, but as soon as Rogic – who had been quiet – was activated, receiving the ball in central space from the left, then the move became dangerous.

    Rogic sent a perfect pass out into space on the right, and Risdon’s cross flew out to Kruse on the left side of the box. He cushioned a ball back across goal for Leckie to tap home. Swooping lateral passing had completely flummoxed the Czech defence.

    Australia had also done a great job of getting men forward; the lateral passing increases the chances forward runners will be involved, as opposed to vertical balls aimed usually at a single forward runner. 

    The variety the team seemed comfortable exercising in attack was hugely encouraging, and cut a starkly different silhouette from the blunt monotony that occasionally plagued the late-era Postecoglou Roos. Faced with a high Czech line, clipped balls in behind the defence were a viable method of approach; this led to the defence dropping a little, and now lateral passing – utilising Rogic more – produced some lovely sequences.

    The forward line was constructed to be able to execute both methods, and the passing present in the defence greased the wheels for all of it.

    Josh Risdon did excellently, in a fairly demanding role. With 15 minutes remaining, he was seen dancing across the edge of the Czech box, before giving it away. He then appeared, seconds later, tackling in his own defensive third, atoning for the error with pure searing hustle. That will have pleased van Marwijk, and it seems like the right-back spot is his for the World Cup. The manager congratulated Risdon when he was subbed.

    Nabbout scored the second goal, showing a sense of poise and precision in finishing that the 50 prior minutes of hard running must have made difficult. Running onto a spinning through ball, Nabbout twisted Thomas Kalas this way, then that way, before striking low and hard across the keeper and into the bottom corner.

    When he’s feeling it, Nabbout is a emphatic finisher; the question was whether he could warm his touch up enough in the frenetic surrounds of international football. This was the most breezy, pressure-less of international matches, so although his performance here was promising, the World Cup will be another matter entirely. 

    The Jackson-Irvine-as-No-10 experiment continued when Irvine replaced Rogic, and took up the same position. He showed the intended effect not long after coming on, bursting onto a Mooy long pass that had been headed up by Maclaren, also a sub. Propelling physically into the final third is what he does best, but his lack of ball-playing ability – compared to Rogic – means he shouldn’t be first choice at No. 10.

    Aaron Mooy of the Socceroos. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

    It was Australia’s first friendly win on foreign soil in 11 games. It was, just about, the most accommodating friendly warm-up one could want; the Czechs weren’t awful so much as they were, well, absent. It was the football equivalent of sparring against an opponent strictly instructed to only perform the very minimum in response.

    Still, such as it was, this was an excellent sparring session for the Roos, and the ability to switch between attacking approaches was very encouraging. Luongo was the unsung hero, playing the full 90; he was central to the stability Australia enjoyed for most of the game. Daniel Arzani was given a very short spell at the end of the game; here lies the most tantalising morsel to think on before the next friendly against Hungary.

    Evan Morgan Grahame
    Evan Morgan Grahame

    Evan Morgan Grahame is a Melbourne-based journalist. Gleaning what he could from his brief career as a painter, the canvas of the football pitch is now his subject of contemplation, with the beautiful game sketching new, intriguing compositions every week. He has been one of The Roar's Expert columnists since 2016. Follow him on Twitter @Evan_M_G.

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    The Crowd Says (52)

    • June 2nd 2018 @ 7:48am
      Kangajets said | June 2nd 2018 @ 7:48am | ! Report

      I like the combination of Mooy and Luongo , which means I don’t see a role for jedinak, unless he replaces Milligan at cb

      • June 2nd 2018 @ 2:02pm
        chris said | June 2nd 2018 @ 2:02pm | ! Report

        Jedi will play against France as he provides the stability which we will require. The speed of the French is a worry.
        They looked very good against the Italians this morning. They seemed a metre quicker.

        On another note, anyone else read that article by the Roar journo who looks like Leo Sayer?
        Something about not liking the socceroos and wanting us to get smashed by our 3 group opponents.
        Lovely stuff!
        All these haters feeling compelled to write “football” articles.
        Rugby fan no less.

      • Roar Guru

        June 2nd 2018 @ 4:21pm
        Griffo said | June 2nd 2018 @ 4:21pm | ! Report

        Jedinak will screen, but it just depends on the opponent, and if he has any niggling injuries, and whether Luongo is preferred over Jedinak.

        Milligan has been told he’s a centre back and that’s it.

        Milligan is a better passer of the ball at any rate.

    • June 2nd 2018 @ 9:12am
      AGO74 said | June 2nd 2018 @ 9:12am | ! Report

      I thought your reference to Nabbout as a defensive striker is probably what Bert is looking at – for the France game at least.

      It was very encouraging but this to me felt like when I was wastching the France game against Ireland the other day. Granted the French are much more skilful than us but it was truly hard to tell how much of a quality performance it was given the disinterested/experimental nature if the opponents lineup. At the very least we were ruthless in scoring 4 goals. Positive signs.

      Still concerned by our own defensive vulnerabilities in the opening minutes of a match – on show again last night which we got away with but would be less likely to against a higher quality opponent.

      Overall though – much better than the Norway match!!!!

      • June 2nd 2018 @ 10:50am
        Fadida said | June 2nd 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

        Matt Simon is a defensive striker. Nabbout isn’t. He’s a direct striker who isn’t suited to holding the back up. He needs to be running in behind

        • Roar Guru

          June 2nd 2018 @ 4:24pm
          Griffo said | June 2nd 2018 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

          Agree Nabbout has a bit of an engine and showed he can harry opponents.

          He also can run the ball direct to an opponent and make something of it, which is a likely scenario during the World Cup.

          Which is what BvM likes (directness).

      • Roar Guru

        June 2nd 2018 @ 3:21pm
        Cousin Claudio said | June 2nd 2018 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

        The Czechs were more skillful than us on the ball too.

        Aussie Bert plays to the teams strengths and shapes a winning attitude. As he says, he doesn’t want the best players, he wants the best team. He’s obviously going to play the pressing game against France and try and catch them out on the counter. No point in playing a back 3 and trying to keep the ball off France like Yokahama Ange would do.

        Thrilled for Nabbout, who will surely travel to Russia now and may even start against France. He tracked back in defence a few times as well which is what Bert wants them to do. Attackers are defenders too, its a team game.
        Juric doesn’t like to chase after the ball.

        • June 2nd 2018 @ 3:55pm
          AGO74 said | June 2nd 2018 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

          I don’t think its a matter of him not liking to track back. Its just that hes not as capable as say a mobile and powerful player is such as Nabbout.

    • June 2nd 2018 @ 9:23am
      JAJI said | June 2nd 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      Who are the unlucky 4? Ruka Troisi Maclaren and Brillante?

      • June 2nd 2018 @ 10:53am
        Fadida said | June 2nd 2018 @ 10:53am | ! Report

        They’d be my picks. I felt sorry for Maclaren, you could see the desperation in his play

      • Roar Guru

        June 2nd 2018 @ 12:09pm
        Karlo Tychsen said | June 2nd 2018 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

        I don’t see Arzani making it. Happy to be proven wrong.

        He was in the squad, and he is cap-locked now, but I can’t see him playing much if any role in a world cup game. So I would say Arzani will go out, and Troisi or Brillante will make the cut.

        • June 2nd 2018 @ 12:15pm
          AGO74 said | June 2nd 2018 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

          He’s not cap locked as this was just a friendly.

          • June 2nd 2018 @ 12:35pm
            Scott said | June 2nd 2018 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

            I think Arzani is a more creative player than Troisi and therefore a better option. Perhaps not if this was Troisi from a few years ago but, particularly in the last 12 makes months, he’s become very ineffective.

        • Roar Guru

          June 2nd 2018 @ 3:33pm
          Cousin Claudio said | June 2nd 2018 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

          A change of national team cannot occur if a player has been capped at senior international level in a competitive international match, such as a World Cup qualifier. Senior friendlies, therefore, are not deemed sufficient to tie a player to an association.

          However even if you played a competitive senior game there are lots of exceptions where players have still played for two countries. But you can only change it once.

          Player Original association Switched to
          Kevin Prince Boateng Germany Ghana
          Nacer Chadli Morocco Belgium
          Diego Costa Brazil Spain
          Faouzi Ghoulam France Algeria
          Jonathan Gonzalez USA Mexico
          Jack Grealish Republic of Ireland England
          James McClean Northern Ireland Republic of Ireland
          Thiago Motta Brazil Italy
          Taulant Xhaka Switzerland Albania
          Wilfried Zaha England Ivory Coast
          Etc., etc., etc.,

          FIFA Executive Committee have the power to overrule at any time.
          All it takes is a nice letter to the FIFA Executive Committee and a brown paper bag stuffed with lots of Swiss Francs.

          • June 3rd 2018 @ 7:59am
            j binnie said | June 3rd 2018 @ 7:59am | ! Report

            CC – There is an even more glaring example of multi country representation than those you mention.
            The great Alfredo Di Stefano, who led the Real Madrid line for years, actually played for 3 countries.
            In 1947 he played 5 games for Argentine scoring 6 goals,then in 51/52 he played 7 games for Colombia, scoring 5 more goals, then between 57/62 he managed 31 games for Spain,scoring 23 goals.
            In his “Spanish sojourn” he was also joined by another great ,Ferenc Puskas , who had played 65 games for Hungary before featuring in 4 games for Spain. Cheers jb.

      • June 2nd 2018 @ 3:58pm
        AGO74 said | June 2nd 2018 @ 3:58pm | ! Report

        I think Karacic and Brillante should be nervous given that when he took Risdon off, neither played and instead he sent on Degenek who can play as right back (in fact I think he started with Socceroos at right back).

        Besides those 2, I think it’ll be McLaren and Troisi (I think he will take Ruka for his pace as a potential sub for harassing opponents should we be defending late leads)

    • June 2nd 2018 @ 9:28am
      Mahler said | June 2nd 2018 @ 9:28am | ! Report

      Why so hard on Nabbout? He’s a rising and shining star. I thought your comments were uncalled for. His brilliant goal helped shape the game.

      • June 2nd 2018 @ 9:36am
        MQ said | June 2nd 2018 @ 9:36am | ! Report

        But he’s right, the defensive pressure was even less than an A-League game. The first thing van Marwijk will tell Nabbout in the dressing room is to not expect to have half an hour on the ball to measure the shot, and then he’ll congratulate him on a great goal!!

        • Roar Guru

          June 2nd 2018 @ 3:46pm
          Cousin Claudio said | June 2nd 2018 @ 3:46pm | ! Report

          What’s wrong with the defensive pressure in an A-League game.

          Let’s talk relatively. That’s our biggest ever win against a European nation and the Czech Republic’s biggest ever defeat.

          The Czech’s had better technical skills and ball control than us, just like France will.

          Czech’s are ranked 37 by FIFA, three places above us.

      • June 2nd 2018 @ 9:43am
        jamesb said | June 2nd 2018 @ 9:43am | ! Report

        What i loved about Nabbout was his finish. It was clinical. Over the years, other players had much easier chances, but kept fluffing them. Sure, Nabbout is not a natural striker. But it is a shame that BVM is not the manager post world cup. He might have continued to develop Nabbout as a better player and striker.

        • Roar Rookie

          June 2nd 2018 @ 9:51am
          The Phantom Commissioner said | June 2nd 2018 @ 9:51am | ! Report

          Very well taken goal by Nabbout, as i recall really his only real chance as well. Seeing chances will be probably limited particularly against France he’s probably ot done his chances of starting any harm.

    • June 2nd 2018 @ 9:33am
      MQ said | June 2nd 2018 @ 9:33am | ! Report

      This is an excellent point that EVan makes:

      “A pragmatic operator, van Marwijk nurses an admiration for graft; the very criticisms levelled at his Dutch side, of how physical it was, how starkly it departed from the cherished aesthetic of Dutch football, are far less applicable to the van Marwijk Roos.

      Australia’s team is relatively limited, more suited to the agricultural; there is no shame, like the Dutch decried, in making the Roos, simply, hard to beat.”

      The four goals are pleasing, and Nabbout’s first-ever goal was taken with aplomb, but put all of that aside, the key thing van Marwijk will take from this game is how difficult the socceroos made it for the Czechs to transition from defence to attack, via a combination of good positioning and good old fashioned graft. He would have loved that bit.

      Yes, the Czechs clearly weren’t all that interested in playing the game, and were pretty hopless as both ends of the ground, let’s be honest here, but you can only play the XI in front of you, we were able to stop them stringing passes together too easily, and we forced errors which we capitalised on. CAn’t ask for too much more from our first warm-up game.

    • June 2nd 2018 @ 9:53am
      Mitcher said | June 2nd 2018 @ 9:53am | ! Report

      What a miserable lead.

      • June 2nd 2018 @ 9:54am
        Mitcher said | June 2nd 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        Topped off by my miserable comment.

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