Australia will win 4-0, 4-1, 3-1. Australia should win 14-0. These are just some of the punter predictions posted below the Socceroos Facebook post announcing the starting XI to play Uzbekistan in the Asian Cup Round of 16.
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Round 10 A-League action produced the usual drama as well as a few more unexpected results. Here are the men that made the difference.
How does this team stack up to yours? Are there any obvious omissions or somewhat fortunate inclusions?
1. Eugene Galekovic (Melbourne City)
Despite originally having Jamie Young of the Brisbane Roar in this position after his brave display against Sydney FC on Saturday, Galekovic’s heroics on New Year’s Day were astonishing. If you haven’t seen the final 20 minutes of the game, you need to, just to see a man transform into a wall and repel all that an opposition can possibly throw at him. A late penalty save topped off a remarkable day for the 37-year-old in one of the best-ever A-League goalkeeping performances.
2. Ritchie De Laet (Melbourne City)
The Belgian, seemingly fitter than he has been for some time, produced a tidy display against Western Sydney on New Year’s Day. His goal doubled City’s lead late in the first half and his runs forward were a constant source of stress for the Wanderers. After a great start to the season, the tall defender had been a little inconsistent of late, yet his quality was well and truly on show at ANZ Stadium in the first A-League match of the new year.
3. Andrew Durante (Wellington Phoenix)
I’ve got a $50 note that says Mark Rudan bought Andrew Durante a Christmas card a week or so back. The 35-year-old is in career-best form and the stern, resolute Wellington defence has been shaped by his work at the back. The timing of his challenges on the fringes of the box was outstanding against Victory on Friday night. Despite Keisuke Honda having another week in the stands, Ola Toivonen and Kosta Barbarouses asked plenty of questions. Durante answered those queries with a calculated and calm poise that makes him one of the in-form defenders in the A-League.
4. Thomas Deng (Melbourne Victory)
The 21-year-old Socceroo looks to be a scarily good prospect for the future. My feelings are that the Kenyan-born central defender will wear national colours in the next World Cup, and the consistency he has found in his game will go a long way towards making that happen. I’m sure Graham Arnold thought long and hard about his inclusion in the current Asian Cup squad, and his omission is, quite frankly, a mistake. One of the coolest cats at the back, Deng was poise personified as the aggressive Wellington broke constantly. While the visitors did manage a goal, without Deng, it may have been more.
5. Louis Fenton (Wellington Phoenix)
While this man might be a little bit out of position from a team sheet point of view, I have selected him as a wing back considering the way Mark Rudan has been using the 25-year-old. The Kiwi bombs down the flank endlessly before retreating and tidying up dangerous situations at the back. Along with Tom Doyle on the opposite side of the pitch, Fenton has used his bottomless engine week after week and been an integral player in the resurgence of the Phoenix over the first third of the season.
6. Isaias (Adelaide United)
As I sat, tired and weary, on the lounge after a long drive home on Sunday night, I mumbled out loud, “He is the best player on the pitch by the length of the straight”. It was another outstanding yet quiet and unassuming performance from the holding midfielder – so quiet and controlled. His passing was exquisite, efficient and so precise that it appeared far too easy to be anything other than simple. In truth, each and every decision and redirection of the ball were reflective of a midfielder at the peak of his powers.
7. Josh Brillante (Sydney FC)
As Sydney FC battled to find rhythm against the Roar the bearded midfielder provided much of the impetus from holding midfield. Defensively Brillante was superb and more often than not looked to play forward when in possession. As part of an effective press he was involved in numerous turnovers as the Sydney gang outnumbered Brisbane attackers. Despite some frailties on the fringes of the Sydney defence the centre remained firm and resolute, with Brillante at its heart.
8. Neil Kilkenny (Perth Glory)
Ever since his acrimonious departure from Melbourne City, Kilkenny has diligently applied himself to the task of proving Warren Joyce a fool. At this stage it looks to have been a successful project after yet another magnificent display in the midfield for the Glory in their demolition of the Mariners in Gosford. Pressing, passing and poise are coming easily to the English-born Kilkenny right now, and the gelling Glory are playing with an attacking flair and freedom that is suiting his positive style of play.
9. Adam le Fondre (Sydney FC)
The Englishman headed his eighth and tucked away his ninth goals of the season against Brisbane despite Sydney never really getting out of third gear at Jubilee Stadium. It was a model of quiet efficiency from Le Fondre, with just a couple of chances expertly taken and his goals proving the difference between the two teams. Although Andrew Redmayne might claim to have been the most important factor after a late penalty save saw Sydney hang on to all three points.
10. Andy Keogh (Perth Glory)
After something of a minor slump, Keogh bounced back into form with a brace against the disappointing Mariners at Central Coast Stadium. Bookending the game with goals in the third and 92nd minutes, Keogh was a nemesis throughout the match. Running dangerous angles and consistently slicing between the back four, he kept the home side under pressure. With such a quality midfield, it seems likely that Keogh will at least double his goal tally of six before the season is done and continue being a vital cog in the Glory attacking wheel.
11. Fabio Ferreira (Perth Glory)
Now with his tenth professional club, the Portuguese had the day out that all attackers dream of against the Mariners. Two goals cannot be argued with when it comes to a successful performance for a man up front, yet it was the constant attacking threat the 29-year-old provided that was well worth his inclusion in the team of the week. Ferreira looked as free, fit and confident as I have seen him for some time and it is amazing what playing in a confident team can do for an individual.