Park the bus? The Socceroos should try to beat France instead

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    The fact that France doesn’t know the first thing about the Socceroos speaks volumes for how easy it is to ambush supposed heavyweights at the World Cup.

    Football is rife with silly national stereotypes, and you never hear them trotted out more frequently than at a World Cup.

    You know what France thinks about Daniel Arzani? They’ll think he’s a strong, physically dominant midfielder who never gives up but is technically limited.

    Maybe Les Bleus’ technical staff will at some point glance at the video to discern the difference between Arzani and Andrew Nabbout, but the players sure as hell won’t be bothered.

    That’s why France have barely had a single word to say about the Socceroos in the build-up to the game, other than to call Australian players “very rough” – all the better to alert the referee that the French are delicate multi-millionaires who must be protected at all costs.

    Daniel Arzani

    One of the worst refereeing performances we’ve ever seen at a World Cup was Markus Merk’s baffling display in Munich in 2006, when the German referee awarded every conceivable decision against the Socceroos – even when Brazil had clearly fouled an Australian player.

    So it’s a given that every fifty-fifty decision will go against the Socceroos on Saturday night.

    All teams are equal at a World Cup, of course, but some teams are more equal than others – and they almost always come from Europe.

    And it’s not like Australia – whom the French will know literally nothing about, other than the fact they beat the Socceroos 6-0 in a friendly in Paris which cost Holger Osieck his job – are the only nation to receive such short shrift.

    Here’s a brief preview I found on SB Nation – and yes, I’m aware it’s hardly a scientific survey – of Costa Rica’s supposed chances at the 2014 World Cup.

    “Costa Rica will have to defend like crazy to secure a point in the tough Group E,” so it goes. “Don’t expect much from the squad, as they will leave Brazil without picking up a single point.”

    The Costa Ricans, of course, finished top of a group containing Uruguay, Italy and England, beat Greece in the Round of 16 and were only knocked out of the tournament by the Netherlands in a penalty shoot-out.

    My point – obviously – is that established football nations and their sheep-like supporters underestimate lesser lights as a matter of course.

    And an inevitable degree of complacency filters through to the players themselves.

    So why shouldn’t the Socceroos dream of beating France on Saturday?

    Yes, they’ve got Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba and yada yada yada. Who cares?

    France's Antoine Griezmann runs.

    Costa Rica beat Uruguay in their group opener in 2014 because they did the simple things right.

    They were accurate in front of goal – see Joel Campbell’s equaliser – took their chance from a set piece thanks to Oscar Duarte and converted a quick-fire counter-attack through Marco Urena.

    Household names? Hardly.

    But the Costa Ricans didn’t care what anyone thought of their chances because they’d already been written off by all and sundry anyway.

    France will show Australia the bare minimum of respect in Kazan, then they’ll expect to win the game by virtue of having shown up.

    If Bert van Marwijk is worth his salt – and it’s worth remembering the shoe was on the other foot when he was in charge of the Netherlands – he’ll instruct his players to respect but not fear the French.

    Do the simple things right: remain compact, close down space, make the most of set pieces and most importantly, take your chances.

    What’s the slogan? Impossible is nothing.

    While the French are filling their heads with tired clichés about tough tackles and physical football and never giving up, van Marwijk should be instructing players like Nabbout and Arzani to simply run at their defence.

    Play some football. What difference does it make if the Socceroos get hammered? That’s exactly what the world expects anyway.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist since December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (43)

    • June 15th 2018 @ 7:43am
      Onside said | June 15th 2018 @ 7:43am | ! Report

      We’d need two double deckers Mike. Nah, we’ve got to have a crack.Goliath 0-1 David.(& win Lotto)

    • Roar Guru

      June 15th 2018 @ 7:58am
      Griffo said | June 15th 2018 @ 7:58am | ! Report

      Well as long as the ref doesn’t give out three yellows to keep the French side intact…

      Thanks for preparing the masses, Mike.

      Another old cliché: The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

      The game is 0-all until otherwise known. Let’s make them earn a win, if they can even do that.

      No merci for the French 💪🏼👊🏼👍🏼 😉

    • June 15th 2018 @ 8:02am
      AGO74 said | June 15th 2018 @ 8:02am | ! Report

      Listening to Santo Sam and Ed yesterday interview Jackson Irvine they asked him what is the thing Bert has been saying most in camp. His response was “faster”. Interesting response and one I’m sure we’d all generally agree with from having watched the NT at different times over the last 12 months in particular as well as the transition to our new structure. This team has to be fast in order to have a chance against France which is why it wouldn’t surprise me if he pushes the more mobile and skilful Luongo forward into the number 10 role at the expense of the less mobile Rogic leaving Jedinak and Mooy deeper. Rogic will have his opportunity against Peru and Denmark but I’m not sure France is the game for him.

      For the same reason that this game is not suited to Rogic I do not think Arzani will be introduced unless we are only 1 behind with 20 or 30 to go. Any other score will require a natural mindset to defend as much as attack and I think there is a doubt that he has the maturity as yet to do that (eg first thing Jedinak said to him after scoring was to not forget his defensive duties!).

      8 or 9 times out of 10 France would beat us. And this is compounded further by the ref comments Mike makes (its virtually irrefutable that the vast majority of 50/50 calls go against the lesser team at world cups). Let’s hope the French roll snake eyes and we get double 6.

      Come on Australia!!

    • Roar Rookie

      June 15th 2018 @ 8:14am
      Waz said | June 15th 2018 @ 8:14am | ! Report

      It doesn’t really matter what the French think, it just matters how we play. The Ref’s don’t read pre-match comments either so any French influence over the ref will be negligible.

      This game is there to be won – Australia just need the courage to go and win it, that starts with team selection and tactics which is not something we’ve got right for a couple of years at national level. Time for a change.

    • June 15th 2018 @ 8:18am
      Fadida said | June 15th 2018 @ 8:18am | ! Report

      Just to be clear, you can set up to be very compact, denying space in behind and not park the bus. Counter attacking football can be a positive way of playing, and also a sensible one at times

      • Roar Guru

        June 15th 2018 @ 9:34am
        Rellum said | June 15th 2018 @ 9:34am | ! Report

        Counter attacking football is not a positive way of playing, it is a reactive way of playing.

        • June 15th 2018 @ 10:04am
          Redondo said | June 15th 2018 @ 10:04am | ! Report

          And reactive is not negative

          • June 15th 2018 @ 10:17am
            MQ said | June 15th 2018 @ 10:17am | ! Report

            And let’s not forget that two negatives make a positive.

          • June 15th 2018 @ 12:18pm
            nevyn said | June 15th 2018 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

            The negative football label is thrown around so freely nowadays, possession-based attack or counter-attack, you’re still trying to get forward attack and score goals, both have their inherent risks but both are a positive intent to get to the goal.

            As has been pointed out, many top nations and clubs utilize the counter-attack in their games, but like them the Socceroos entire game plan hasn’t been counter attack, they have tried to counter WHEN they have the opportunity but equally they’ve scored some good goals via possession in the two recent friendlies. Your style doesn’t have to be one or the other.

            Negative football would NOT having an intent to attack, keeping 8 or 9 men back and booting it to one or two men to attack on their own whilst the rest of the team set up to defend. The Socceroos have countered in numbers on all occasions.

            • June 15th 2018 @ 12:40pm
              Redondo said | June 15th 2018 @ 12:40pm | ! Report


        • June 15th 2018 @ 10:43am
          Kris said | June 15th 2018 @ 10:43am | ! Report

          Russia just put 5 past the Saudi’s by conceding something like 70% possession to them.

        • June 15th 2018 @ 11:39am
          Fadida said | June 15th 2018 @ 11:39am | ! Report

          Liverpool scored bucket loads with fast transitions on change of possession.

          • June 15th 2018 @ 12:10pm
            Fadida said | June 15th 2018 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

            Under Ange and his supposedly positive attacking style we finished behind what I called at the time a poor Saudi team. Russia (who are considered one of the weakest teams in the cup) just put 5 past them, essentially conceding possession and using fast transitions.

            We are told, however, that we should attack France, a much better side than Russia, and the Saudis that we couldn’t get past, and that playing on transitions is negative?

            Play to your strengths?

            • June 15th 2018 @ 3:12pm
              nevyn said | June 15th 2018 @ 3:12pm | ! Report

              Ange’s proactive (rather than positive) pressing was his own personal ideal for how we should play (i think we should be developing players that can play any style and approach), it worked great against teams that attacked us (Chile, Netherlands) and left us space to attack, but we struggled against teams that sat back such as Saudi under BVM, because we don’t have the tools to unlock deep compact defences.

              You can see how bad the Saudi’s were when they tried to play an expansive game against Russia and provided no cover to their back-line.

              I’d argue that our strength is in transitions and attacking the space. For all Ange’s slow possession based approach (which I don’t mind in theory IF we have the players that are good in tight spaces), most of our successes were in the transition phase of pressing and winning the ball, not from the build up phase of his game plan.

              Absolutely we should play to our strength. Set up a midfield block, invite the French out into the middle of the field, press in wing areas and attack the space they leave behind with willing runners (which is a low level summation of what BVM appears to be doing with the Socceroos).

    • Roar Rookie

      June 15th 2018 @ 8:31am
      Stevo said | June 15th 2018 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      • June 15th 2018 @ 11:08am
        Nick Symonds said | June 15th 2018 @ 11:08am | ! Report

        From the link above –

        Richard Parkin: “To presume to defend against a team with the attacking qualities of France is to invite slaughter.”

        4-3-3: Ryan; Risdon, Jedinak, Sainsbury, Behich; Mooy, Luongo, Irvine; Petratos, Leckie, Nabbout

        John Davidson: “A heavy loss in the first group game would likely spell disaster for the Socceroos, like it did in South Africa in 2010 and in Brazil in 2014. So the best bet for the green and gold is to be compact and organised against Les Bleus, with a draw or even a 1-0 loss a valuable result. In that vein, I would go with a 4-1-4-1 formation that tries to create width on the flanks and is hard to break down.”

        4-1-4-1: Ryan; Risdon, Sainsbury, Matt Jurman, Behich; Jedinak; Leckie, Luongo, Mooy, Kruse; Nabbout

        • June 15th 2018 @ 11:26am
          AGO74 said | June 15th 2018 @ 11:26am | ! Report

          Not much love for Rogic.

          • June 15th 2018 @ 11:49am
            Kris said | June 15th 2018 @ 11:49am | ! Report

            Feeling that he is not a wartime consigliere ?

        • June 15th 2018 @ 11:48am
          Fadida said | June 15th 2018 @ 11:48am | ! Report

          It appears Richard Parkin plans to play Petratos wide right. Anyone who’s seen him play knows he’s not a wide man. Risdon would get slaughtered without the protection of an athletic wide man.

          He also needs to understand that it is not so black and white, attack or defend. You can play on the counter without being “defensive”. Above all you need to play to the strengths of your squad

          • Roar Guru

            June 15th 2018 @ 1:16pm
            Griffo said | June 15th 2018 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

            Petratos may come on out wide, as preferred CAMs are Irvine and Rogic, but as a CAM behind Nabbout/Juric/Cahill is Dimi’s best place.

            Agree defence/attack is just how you perceive an approach – I just hope some of our aggressive instincts come out and wallop France hard when they have the chance, we may not have many.

      • June 15th 2018 @ 12:05pm
        MQ said | June 15th 2018 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

        Thanks Stevo, a good read.

        Unfortunately, a lot of it is pie in the sky. BVM is not going to make drastic changes to the line-up which started the last two friendlies, at most we’re looking at one change (two at the very, very most).

        Having read all accounts, mulled it over, the most likely change is to sacrifice Rogic to bring in Jedi as a specialist holding mid, boy, will we need it against the French. It’s natural that our midfield triangle against the French will be more defence minded for this first game – we can play around with that concept for the two games which follow.

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