Friday, July 13, 2007

Honeymoon over; Arnold's Favourites all but out

Asian Cup matchday 2, Australia 1 v Iraq 3

ORGANISED, united, spirited, disciplined, composed, classly, on the same wave-length and playing to a plan. It's everything you would want from a football team. That was Iraq.

Unstructured, undisciplined, under-prepared, strung-out, clueless, one-dimensional, catastrophic. Welcome to the Socceroos, version 2007.

This has been a learning experience like few before, for everyone - players, fans, media, manager, support staff and the governing body.

So much for the suppossed X factor that Steve Waugh saw after spending a few days in camp a couple of weeks back.

So much for the favouritism tag.

So much for waltzing through the group stage.

So much for the prevailing attitude that anything but the final would amount to failure.

We've become the champions of talk. Pity we haven't yet been able to get into a walk. As in life, respect and humility should be the guiding principles.

This is the wake up call Australia football needed, before we got too far ahead of ourselves.

Truth is that had it not been for the vision of Frank Lowy and his ability to convince Guus Hiddink to manage our German World Cup campaign, we wouldn't have made it to the finals for the first time in 32 years. We'd still be waiting. He pulled all the right moves, on the field and off it, at the right time.

Truth is that had it not been for Hiddink, we wouldn't have dished up the quality of football we witnessed this time last year, let alone got anywhere near the top 16 teams in the world.

It's this reason why Lowy has been reluctant to back Arnold as Hiddink's long-term successor, despite all the pressure that has been heaped on him here to do so.

It's because ultimately he knows Arnold hasn't the tools to take us to the World Cup, never mind doing something when we're there.

Australia is still a relative baby in world football terms and the sooner we all realise it, the better off we'll be. Time to take stock and accept we need to keep learning.

No doubt Australia has the players and talent to do the job on the world stage, but we still need to be nutured and taught, not pampered and spoilt into believing we know it all.

Here the Iraqi's gave the ultimate tuition thanks to some wonderful football from the likes of Nashat Akram, Younis Mahmoud and Hawar Mulla Mohammed.

Jorvan Vieira had his skilful unit well organised, disciplined and calculated, everything the Socceroos weren't. Akram was the craftsmen, the front two the executioners.

While the Roos performance was slightly better than Sunday night, there were still too many signs that Arnold had lost control.

Moving the ball around far too slowly, leaving too much room between the three lines, never getting in touch with each other, resorting to the aerial ball far too often, allowing our frustrations to boil-over, looking for excuses, taking short-cuts, tacking out frustraions on the opposition and the officials, making poor decisions in defence and on the ball; they were all symptoms of a team/camp which hasn't looked happy.

In my most recent Asian Cup post, after the Oman game, I signed off by saying that Australia still had a hope if the players could prove they wanted to be there and the manager started pulling the right punches.
Neither did the job on this night and the most short-changed people are those that have invested their time and money to follow the team through Asia.
Arnold's post-match comments to Fox Sport's Murray Shaw that "some players don't want to be here" drew a perplexed yet defiant response from skipper Mark Viduka. Boy will the next couple of days be interesting.
But for Mile Sterjovski, Arnold stuck with his 'big guns', perhaps reasoning that they deserved a chance to atone for their Oman performance. No doubt they let him down.
Perhaps the most disappointing of the lot was "golden boy" Lucas Neill, petulant throughout. After speaking for a week about the need for his team to keep the ball, his first use of it was a wasteful long ball in search of his skipper. It didn't get any better from there, his work often ponderous, ending up in him getting two cards.
Apart from Emerton and Wilkshire, few could hold their heads up high in this game. Schwarzer, often the hero, proved, as he did at the World Cup, that he is still shaky in dealing with crosses.
The evidence has been there throughout that the players have been running this campaign. It is a fine balance between being a friend and letting the players have too much of a say.


The miracle in the wash-up of all this is that all is not lost. Australia is still a chance of getting out of the group. A win over Thailand on Monday, coupled with an Iraqi win or draw against Oman will ensure passage to final eight, but on the evidence of this display, you wouldn't bet on it.

Arnold will need to lay down the law, put friendships aside, and the senior players will need to accept it. We shall see.

12 Comments:

Blogger Adam said...

Great article again TT. The socceroos were absolutely atrocious. I could have rounded up 11 guys at the Australian Youth Hotel that would have put on a better showing. Arnold can crap on all he wants about the heat and preparation time but it comes down to him not being capable of coaching a team. He's no better than Frank Farina but you don't see the old boys club at SBS campaigning for his removal the way they did with Farina, the man has absolutely no clue how to run a team! This competition was as good a chance as any to win a major cup and he's screwed it up already. The sooner we get rid of him, the better it will be for australian football.

Sat. Jul. 14, 07:42:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Guido said...

Adam. Craig Foster has been a trenchant critic of Arnold. Watch him rip at TWG tomorrow.

Sat. Jul. 14, 11:22:00 pm AEST  
Blogger Pulento said...

TT, spot on mate!

Fellas, there's also two big facts left out of most analysis were that:

1) We should have played Argentina!
Of course we would have lost by 5 goals or so, but it would have woken us all up a lot earlier. I remember just after the Singapore game on SBS' TWG how lame their assessment of the team was. Even their online/phone poll about the team was pathetic, with most punters saying it was encouraging!. And of course the panelists then went on to justify that they were still getting used to the heat, etc... shameful! more lame excuses.

I was at the Uruguay game in Sydney, and I don't think I have ever wasted so much money on a ticket for a national team just going through the motions and not even trying.

Like you said in your post, this is not really a team that plays together.

Which brings me to the most important bit:
2) In fact it's been a long time since the World Cup... and that was the last and only time they have performed at a decent level under the tough pressure of a serious comp.

Now we haven't even got to the knock-out phase of the Asian Cup! And there's no leadership, no fitness and most importantly no defense.

Like they say in South America: great attack wins games, great defense wins championships.

That's why it is so disgraceful that SBS is not even showing a decent highlights package from the Copa America. Because there's a lot we can learn from that. SBS should know better.

For example how did Uruguay fare? there we would have a great reference point. Well, playing well (a lot better that we have!) they still lost to a very mediocre Brazil. What happen to the great skillful Mexicans? got massacred by Argentina! What happened to Chile? got killed by Brazil!

We should learn from the mistakes of others. That's why the Asians have some great SouthAmerican coaches!

Only this arvo, (about to start!) will SBS show the highlights of the youth U-20 World Cup in Canada.

What most of the SouthAmerican teams are doing is to prepare in the Copa America and with their youth teams to develop the new blood and bench to support their run in to the next WC.

Yet here we have no understanding of the many building blocks required for such a feat. in hindsight this all makes Gus look like the real genius he really is, and much more of a legend!

Unfortunately, these performances from the Socceroos remind me a lot of Sydney FC last year: a shadow of the former team. No much finesse, little "gutsiness". Sure there's some fighting spirit but only after we're in deep sh*t, and not from the get-go.

Most importantly, also there's a huge hole in the middle and not much decent strategic planning. So we can't keep possession, can't keep the ball in the opponent's half and there's no decent passes with a bit of advantage from the midfield to our forwards.

During the Iraq game I just kept screaming: keep the ball! Keep it on the ground!

Please let's not ever again have this crap of kicking the ball like it was AFL! That's why the comparisons to Farina are becoming more and more frequent. That kind of crappy play, was rightly dropped with the old frustrating anglo-style of desperate aimless crosses of the old Socceroos. Let's never bring it back.

That's why we need players like Thompson and Nicky Carl being a lot more involved. Not only do they have what we lacked most: skills and improvisation, but they are probably the fittest since they have been playing a tough finals series and personally peaking in their own performances.

This newer blood is the only antidote to the AFL-style of football.

But back to Iraq. The best team won on the night by far!

We still have a massive hole in th midfield (bring in Nicky Carl!) and our defense has gone AWAL.

The main culprit here is Neil, who as the most experienced defender together with Emerton, should be organising and keeping the back together. Instead, he has been unfit and totally useless. Just like the useless red card he got for himself in the last couple of minutes of the game, for mouthing off?

Good riddance! No leadership, no maturity, and totally ineffective.

My only consolation, is that we better learn from this humbling experience now, way before the next qualifiers to the WC. We will have to earn, really earn that spot playing the same kind of teams in Asia.

Time for hard work, lots more friendlies, preparations and a lot of humility. A decent strategically minded coach would also help!

Sun. Jul. 15, 02:57:00 pm AEST  
Blogger Mike Salter said...

Great to read your account, Tony. Heartily agree with your comments.

Although our preparation for the tournament was mediocre and the conditions are uncongenial, neither the players nor the manager can excuse themselves after Friday night. Just dismal.

Haven't been able to see the game until now, but my own comments are here.

Sun. Jul. 15, 06:08:00 pm AEST  
Blogger Pulento said...

The SBS highlights of the U-20 championships were crap!

It was the crappiest 90 minutes they could have chosen to show us: nil-all draw that went to a 1 all draw in extra time that they did not show! Then a mediocre penalty shootout.

With so much more to choose from... a waste. SBS has been so disapointing in their coverage, no decent coverage of our rivals in the Asian Cup, no highlights of the Copa America... and only now the 2 semis in the U-20.

Plus pretty-girl Foster keeps the spotlight on himself, flogging a dead horse giving Arnold more crap (admitedly well deserved). But why not criticise our lack of preparation and dodgy friendlies when it matters: like before the Asian Cup!

Now's just becoming irrelevant, just like SBS' Football coverage.

Sun. Jul. 15, 10:59:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous pinuts pethia said...

Thinking about watching the league game tonight instead of the football.

Enough said!

Mon. Jul. 16, 08:30:00 am AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tony,

The Iraqi's were class. Shouldnt A-League scouts be at the tournmment securing some of this fine talent? Stuff Robbie Fowler, Sydney FC should take Iraq's Number 11.

And nor should it be limited to Iraq. A-League scouts should snap up anybody who can play and can ad an extra dimension to the Australian league

Frank Lopez

Mon. Jul. 16, 02:28:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like they did with that Persik defender - his name escapes me.

Agree largely with what you said TT but I think your last sentence is wishful thinking. Arnold has no authority and knows that he is dead man walking. That's why he can't impose any authority or discipline.

SMH's report of Dick Advocaat being approached to take over is testament to that.

In a way I feel sorry for the poor sod, but the fact remains that he is not the ideal leader for the teeam at present.

As I said to Frank Lopez earlier, reminiscent of the English team pre-WC, it annoys me no end that this Australian team is talked up so much as the natural heir to Japan as the federation's best without much justificaation. Iran, Japan and even Korea are just as good if not better than us. They play more like a team; they are a team as opposed to our part-time group of club players.

I'm hopeful of a win against Thailand. No disrespect to them, but with the lethargic Neill being out, some noses out of joint and with some of the "lesser" players being given a run, we can only do better and should beat the Thais.

PS. Schwarzer's a great keeper and has made some great saves in the last 3 games but his howler against Iraq would have brought some comfort to poor old Clint Bolton after his own blunder v. Uruguay!

Dids

Mon. Jul. 16, 03:18:00 pm AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Thankyou all for your thoughtful and kind comments….

Adam,

Agree that sbs haven’t campaigned as vigorously for the removal of Arnold as they did farina, but you have to remember that Farina was in the job for 6 long years....Arnold has only been in the hot seat a year, and one always sensed he was only warming up the seat until the world cup qualifiers…

In fairness, I think Craig Foster has complimented Arnold when he has done some good things, and been critical when he has seen some not so good things....what has been happening over the past month hasn’t been good in the slightest.

Personally, I was always of the view that Arnold should have been given the Asian Cup to prove if he could cut at this level...and if, as seems the case, he couldn’t take his chance, then a well credentialed o/s manager – not necessarily a big name, just the best man for the job – should get the job for the wc quals...


Guido,

Thanks for the mention of my piece in your analysis of the game...


Pulento,

Thanks for your thoughts and Congratulations on posting what must be TRBAs longest ever comment...I particularly enjoyed your following sentiments;

“During the Iraq game I just kept screaming: keep the ball!....”

You sure there weren’t a few adjectives thrown is there??

Seriously, we truly did a poor job of keeping, which is a mystery for me given I have seen a number of Arnold’s teams over the past 12 months do a pretty decent job of it...but not lately.

Agree with your thoughts here...

“we better learn from this humbling experience now, way before the next qualifiers to the WC. We will have to earn, really earn that spot playing the same kind of teams in Asia. Time for hard work, lots more friendlies, preparations and a lot of humility.”

Btw, I thought the Czechs were magnificent from the penalty spot.

Mike,

Hope you’re feeling better, although the game probably didn’t help...I agree with your thoughts about a poor preparation and think that the Arnold hasn’t exactly been given all the support he needed...

In a sense, he has been hung out to dry, Lowy always knowing that he was warming the chair....I was absolutely gob-smacked when I saw Anthony Crea in the studio for the Oman game, just an example of the short-cuts (regardless of his obligations to FC).

Will check your piece shortly and comment.

Pinuts,

Good to hear from you again….

The good news is you can watch the league and then switch over to the Roos, but I reckon you’d be mad not to watch Vietnam vs Japan...like Thailand and Indonesia, Vietnam have been one of the true feel-good stories of this champions, really surprising me with how well they played...the key feature of most of these teams is how well they've been managed.

Frank,

Good to hear from you as always...

Agree totally, the Iraqi's were class, especially Nashat, Younis and Hawar Mulla Mohammed (the #11)…his chip over Schwarzer was a sublime bit of skill and execution, so classy...I have been so impressed by the quality of players in this tournament, but it hasn’t really been a massive surprise cause I’d already seen some quality when Kuwait came out here (I’ll never forget Bader Al Mutwa, who would look good in any strip, let alone an A-League one)...agree though, I’d love to see a few of these blokes on a weekly basis down under...the question is, are the A-League scouts watching??????

Dids,

Great to hear from you as well...

As in my earlier thoughts to Mike, I also feel sorry for Arnold cause I don’t think he was ever going to be the long term option, which might have played a bit of a role with his inability to impose any control over the unit…

But ultimately he hasn’t been able to make the right moves, on and off the pitch, and that’s a bit of a liability in the crunch world cup qualifiers....

Re Schwarzer, I’ve always seen him as an excellent shot-stopper, but weak on crosses, and I think you were referring to Brad Jones (not Clint Bolton) re that howler...that Indonesiona defender you refer to is Erol Iba, currently in their Asian Cup squad, but only as a benchy...

Re the Thais, I’d love to share your optimism and I hope you’re right, but again, we shouldn’t be underestimating them...that’s what’s got us in this mess....I’ve seen both their games and have been really really impressive....they are dynamic, mobile and very well organised, and they have some potency up front....their right back, Suree Sukha has been a revelation, while their left central defender, Saiweao (the #16) is just a delight to watch, so calm on the ball...wat a player, one of my favorites so far!!!....their midfield is packed with dynamic little buzzers, I especially have enjoyed thonglao, the #7, the bloke who skipped camp to get married....up front, suksomkit and senamuang work their socks off and they have two able replacements in Winothai and Tonkanya....we underestimate them at our own peril...

Mon. Jul. 16, 05:32:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right, I meant Brad Jones and not Clint Bolton. I must have had Clint's own howler in mind, from the first Urawa game at the SFS.

The score flattered us terribly last night. The Thais can play exciting football and they certainly impressed me last night with their quick turns and flair.

I'll leave the analysis to you but whereas the Thais tried time and time again - and succeeded - in penetrating the Aussie defence, Viduka's goals came from long crosses. (Great use of his physical advantage to good effect, don't get me wrong.) It's just a shame the Thais didn't/couldn't score last night. They certainly deserved one or two.

I know Frank L. can't stand Bresciano (I thought he played better yesterday) but we're both asking ourselves: who is Holman and what is he doing on the field? I've seen him a few times now but this has gone beyond a joke. As you can guess, we're not fans.

The petulant Lucas Neill's absence helped us last night. I hope he's calmed down, if he returns for the game against Japan, and now that the b!tch-fest seems to be out of the way that the team can settle down into a cohesive outfit. But I'm not expecting a win against Japan.

Tue. Jul. 17, 12:12:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, Bresciano. Is he Australia's worst ever player? This man is garbage. Can somebody tell me when he has played well and give me examples. How he is there ahead of Carle is beyond me. He cant pass. He cant keep possession! It is incredibly frustrating to watch.

How his team-mates don't smash him across the ahead is beyond me. It must be so frustrating when a Bresciano "pass" goes nowhere near you. You get better skill from Under 8s at any suburban club.

Whoever is the webmaster for sackarnold.com needs a to buy a new domain -- sackbresciano.com

'nuff said

Frank Lopez

Tue. Jul. 17, 07:19:00 pm AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Frank and Dids...

Agree about Bresciano, he has been leading a bit of a charmed life in the national team over the past couple of years...A few years back, under Farina, he had a golden period and has been living off the back of that a bit, you sense....

It's an interesting point you make Frank about replacing him with Carle...I doubt it'll happen from the start, but even if it doesn't, Carle should be getting some game-time, especially in a game like last night where we were struggling for a bit....what has he done wrong?

Milligan and Carney proved last night, as I argued ahead of the squad selection, that the A-Leaguers can cut it at this level.

Tue. Jul. 17, 09:02:00 pm AEST  

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