Monday, July 09, 2007

Oman provide Shocker-Roos with a wake up call

Asian Cup opener, Australia 1 vs Oman 1

“MAYBE that was the wake up call we needed,” skipper Mark Viduka told Foxsports’s Murray Shaw after last nights shock draw in the Asian Cup opener against Oman.

One can only hope it shakes the Socceroos out of their lethargy, for last nights performance was perhaps the most disappointing senior national team display since the 2005 Confederations Cup.

While some might point to last September’s 2-0 loss in Asian Cup qualifiers in Kuwait City as being close, the fact is there was a massive gulf in the preparation (a couple of training sessions) and stakes (safety out of the group assured) for that game and this tournament.

Here the Socceroos have had a couple of weeks to acclimatise and most of the big guns are on deck, making yesterday’s showing alarming. Yes, the 34 degree sticky conditions played a part, but most of the problems appear to be between the ears.

Hitherto too much has been made of the conditions. Last week the squad spoke of the need to adopt a conservative approach.

‘We won’t be pressing for the full 90 minutes’ was the mantra, and they were right about that.

Instead, the Socceroos barely pressed at all, giving the talented Omani’s far too much space and time on the ball, allowing them to string the passes and control the tempo of the game, fatal against any team, let alone one that has been preparing for this match for a month.

Even up until a few days ago most of the people in and around the Socceroos squad had admitted to knowing little about the opposition. If it wasn’t arrogance, it was close. At the very least it wasn’t the doting of the ‘i’s’ and crossing of the ‘t’s’ that so defined Germany ‘06.

Seemingly the focus was on the knockouts when it should have been on picking up maximum points in the opener, just as it was a year ago.

Instead it was the Omani’s doing the homework. Clearly they’d learnt a thing or two about how well Singapore (for large periods) defended the likes of Bresciano, Sterjovski, Holman and Viduka, for they never allowed our men to turn and face goal.

With Kewell man-marked by the impressive Ahmed ‘Kanu’ Mubarak (#12), Viduka was largely left isolated by the double-teaming efforts at the back. Wherever he went, deep or wide, the well-organised back four of skipper Mohamed Al Noobi (#2), Juma Al Wahaibi (#3), Said Suwailim (#4) and Hassan Al Gheilani (#17) were in close proximity, never allowing Australia’s chief playmaker any luxury or time on the ball.

It was Cannavaro-esque in its execution.

Every time Australia went forward our attackers had two or three men to contend with and the supply was often blocked-off by the willing workers in midfield, Mubarak, Ahmad Hadid (#21) and left-sided Ismail Al-Ajmi (#15).

With our front four blunted, Omani manager Gabriel Calderon went about constructing his attack through the width of Yousef Al-Busaidi (#11) down the right, Ismail down the left (which kept Wilkshire and Emerton busy) and the impressive playmaker Bader Al Maimani (#8), popping up all over the place, in behind the lively and mobile Amad Al Hosni (#20).

Whereas the Socceroos quartet were bottled-up, the Omani front four were allowed the luxury to express themselves on the ball – demonstrating great technique - and the space to break-forward with pace and purpose.

It was calculated, detailed and part of a plan, buzz-words of the Australian game just 12 short months ago.

Right now the words that describe Australia’s recent efforts are lucky, flattering and disorganised.

As I’d hinted in my most recent post, a stretched Australian defence looked there for the taking, and had it not been for a number of strong interventions from Mark Schwarzer, the game might have been buried beyond our reach.

Whereas the defence under Hiddink had looked in-touch and in-control most of the time, suddenly it was being pulled apart by a bit of nous. When Al Hosni darted down the left, Emerton was out of position, forcing Neill, the left of two central defenders, to scamper across to the right, creating space infield for Al Maimani to finish.

The break came and Arnold reacted rather predictably. Instead of shaking up his unit by taking off one of his ‘stars’, it was Sterjovski who made way for Aloisi. Admittedly he’d been terrible, but no more than Bresciano or any number of big-names.

Unable to break through Oman on the ground, the Socceroos, riding their luck at the other end, resorted to the ‘Japan Plan B’ aerial route, just the receipt for the late show man Timmy Cahill to pick up the pieces.

It provided a get out of jail card, at least for now, but unless the Socceroos start demonstrating that they really want to be there, and Arnold starts pulling the right punches, it could indeed be the wake-up call we all needed.

4 Comments:

Blogger Hamish said...

I watched the game alone, with a sound-track of live rock n' roll cover songs, at the Paddo Tavern. Probably about ten people in the pub had a good whooop when our goal happened. Most people seemed to be aware the game was on but were content to look up occasionally to note the score. Anyway, that's not my point here.

I've done a bit of surfing and Tony, you win, hands down, the best written and most astute analysis for this game. Apologies to Mike who I think comes a close second.

Great work.

Mon. Jul. 09, 06:44:00 pm AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Hi Hamish, great to hear from you and glad you did catch the game, however despressing/shocking it was...

I've heard similar tales about a lack of interest in certain outlets (perhaps the Sunday night time-slot was more condusive to people getting together at a friends place?), yet the front page of today's smh carried a front page story - based on a release from Fox - about just how popular the coverage was....

I usually use my wife or sisters as a baramoter and I gotta say, it's didnt quite stack up to Greys Anatomy or whatever it's called...

Was the Paddo Tavern one of the Fox's preferred outlets?

Btw, thanks for the wrap, glad you enjoyed the read...

Tue. Jul. 10, 05:25:00 pm AEST  
Blogger Hamish said...

The Paddo is just the closest pub to where I was at the time. It's not one of the official outlets that I know of, but almost all the screens were tuned into the game.

I miss the commentary sometimes, but soccer to a rock n' roll backing isn't bad.

Tue. Jul. 10, 06:44:00 pm AEST  
Blogger Rio said...

I don't quite understand why Kewell played forward while Bresciano, who isn't as natural to the role played at left wing. Kewell's mobility could of create some options when Jason Culina gets contained.

Fri. Aug. 03, 08:49:00 am AEST  

Post a Comment

<< Home