Same old, same old
Russell Degnan

I wish the Socceroos could play Germany more often. They might not be stylish, they won't beat a team with a piece of individual brilliance but they find problems in a defence like a well paid structural engineer. And it shows that Australia has not improved on their biggest faults. Faults that have cost us in world cup campaign time and time again.

Problem 1: defensive lapses. There is no excuse for this, they are not amateurs, but the marking was shoddy against Germany and goals were scored. Once I'd have said this was because they don't play together enough, but Popovic and Moore have played together at least 30 times if not more.

Problem 2: lazy players. Watch Zidane, Beckham or Ronaldinho and they obviously want the ball because they track back to get it. Watch some of Australia's players and you wonder whether they really do. Once you are past the Australian midfield you can run at the defence in numbers. It makes them vulnerable on the break, and a lot of soft goals go in: see home against Iran '97, and away to Uruguay '01 for example. Kewell is the worst offender -- see the semi-final against Juventus -- but others are as bad.

Problem 3: one paced. England are one paced, but they are always intense. Australia never controls the pace of the game, it is always worked around methodically. You rarely see the lightning break, the holding of a ball in defense for long periods, the midfielder who waits then accelerates isn't there. Defensively, the sudden speed rips Australia to shreds. Offensively, there is not a lot of penetration through the centre. Shut off Australia's wings -- difficult though that is -- and there aren't many other options.

Having said that, the offense is not a problem, Australia has a surfeit of quality attacking midfielders -- just think, Bresciano and Kewell have to fit into a side that scored thrice against Germany. Viduka, when and if fit will allow them to hold the ball up in attack and bring Cahill and company into play. The wingers get forward and there are backups.

But if there are two soft goals scored over the two-leg play-off, then Australia will miss out. Again.

Football 16th June, 2005 14:19:59   [#] 


How can we improve?
You seem to be implying that there's something Australia can do about this. Given that international football is an occasional hobby for the players, all Frank Farina can do is pick the best players and hope they show up. He can't really improve their skills or work on elaborate game plans. Nor can most international coaches. Those that can get results well above their station - eg South Korea in the last World Cup, or Greece. But while international football remains the poor cousin of club football, that's going to be the exception rather than the rule.
Rob  16th June, 2005 17:22:00  

He doesn't need to
For starters, I think Farina needs to get them more intense. Intensity, as you'd know because you play sport and it occurs at every level, makes a massive difference. As hard as it is to believe for a team full of psychopaths (Muscat, Neill, Moore, Cahill) they aren't that intense.

Secondly, while I agree on South Korea, Greece are a European team like any other, with similar problems getting players. They succeeded for the same two reasons that Chelsea succeeded. One, defense came first, and players who didn't put in were benched or left out -- in Chelsea's case look at Joe Cole. And two, the team had a plan and the best player for their role was picked. By contrast England started with four play making central midfielders: Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard and Scholes. Argentina had the same problem in the World Cup and it just doesn''t work.

There is enough competition for places that Farina can let it be known what he wants to see players do to get selected if they want to play. For me, physical fitness -- so they can be intense -- and a willingness to play defence should be prerequisites for any player.

Basically, I am sick of watching a team get an 'honourable loss' that would have been different except for... I want them to win and I want them to play like Australians sports teams play.

As an aside, I do like the 5 man midfield with one playing deep. But we still need someone who can run the show. Most of the players we have are better at running off the ball than with it.
Russ  16th June, 2005 20:51:01