Monday, September 10, 2007

Missed opportunities could come back to bite Olyroos

Olyroos 1 v North Korea 0, post match analysis

IN the context of Iraq’s 5-0 win in Beirut a few hours after the Olyroos knocked-off North Korea in Newcastle, it was easy to see why Graham Arnold was disappointed in the post match press-conference.

Knowing that only the top team in the group progresses to Beijing, clearly Arnold was thinking about the missed opportunity to rack-up a nice goal difference.

It’s not that his under 23s had blow the North Koreans off the pitch, but they’d dominated and controlled the match enough to create a number of good openings, none better than Ruben Zadkovich’s one-on-one in the 89th minute, and cooler heads might have resulted in a more emphatic score-board.

Clearly Arnold was frustrated that this profligacy in front of goal might come back to haunt his side, as it did a few hours later, so naturally it dominated a large part of his press conference;

"I’m a hard task master. I was happy but I'm not happy with the final third. The boys carried out the game-plan great, defensively from the front to the back we were very good. But in international football when you have, on three or four occasions, three-against-one and you blow them every time then you'll end up getting punished. They've just got to relax a bit more. They get a rush of blood and get excited in front of goal and (think) what do I do now? That's why I got angry at the end because that could've been a one-all draw when we should've been much more clinical with our opportunities," he said.

Spot on. When DPR Korea striker Choe Chol-Man rattled the crossbar on the hour, it was fortunate Stuart Musalik was on the line and that his header went the right direction for Australia. Ditto when An Chol-Hyok was clean through ten minutes later with only Danny Vukovic to beat and fired wide.

Otherwise, Arnold was “very happy” with the performance. He spoke openly about how he had been able to pin North Korea back through the use off the two full-backs, Nikolai Topor-Stanley on the left and Ruben Zadkovich on the right, both bombing forward at will, and how he’d instructed both Kristian Sarkies (left) and David Williams (right), to tuck in and allow the fullbacks to provide the width.

In the main, I felt that worked pretty well, and the combination on either flank was good, although North Korea seemed content to let it happen, sitting deep and allowing the Olyroos to come at them.

Some of the other interesting tactical observations were his use of Musalik in the deep-lying holding role. With the two fullbacks pressing up so often, Musalik had the job of ensuring the North Koreans didn’t penetrate on the counter. While they showed a bit of pace up front, the countering was sporadic, so thumbs up to Musalik, who I thought had another excellent game. Unfortunately for us fan of the A-League, I sense it’s only a matter of time before he finds himself in Europe.

Driving from central midfield were both Nick Ward and Billy Celeski, the latter in great form for both club and country. Their job was not only to lend defensive support to Musalik, but to ensure they got forward and supported Mark Bridge.

When I asked Arnold about his surprise decision to start with Bruce Djite off the bench (he has been a regular starter so far in this campaign), the manager explained;

“Bruce has played a lot of football lately. I just felt Bridgey, with his greater experience, could offer us a little bit more in terms of the way we wanted to play. He’s good at holding up the ball and bringing others into the game.”

Perhaps the fact Nathan Burns was suspended also helped Arnold make up his mind, as Djite and Burns seem to have an almost telepathic understanding.

He also spoke of why he “had to play Sarkies”;

“Kristian hasn’t had a lot of football lately and I just felt that we needed him out there for the set pieces, and in the end, our goal came from one of his set pieces.”

Looking ahead to the Lebanon game on Wednesday night, Arnold felt they were likely to arrive here tired after a long trip from Beirut and that they would likely play a similar game to North Korea; sit back, soak it up and try and hit on the counter.

That was obviously before the 5-0 hammering at home. How that changes Lebanon’s outlook to this game we will find out, but at least they should have skipper and central defender Ali Al Saadi back from suspension. How they missed him in Beirut.

Regardless, the Olyroos are likely to adopt a similar game-plan, asking the full-backs to bomb forward in support of the front three. No doubt Arnold will be re-emphasising the need to be more clinical in front goal, for it could well be the decisive factor in whether this talented group makes it a sixth successive Olympics appearance for Australia.

IN team news, Arnold confirmed that Nathan Burns is out of the Lebanon clash after injuring a quad in the grand final replay on Friday night.


Blogger Dane said...

I still just can't agree with Arnold's comments about our attack....


Tue. Sep. 11, 03:17:00 pm AEST  
Blogger Adam said...

Seems to me, North Korea might feel a little dissapointed on taking no points home after two good chances.

This is where Oz need to improve, finish teams off, as in an instant, the game could be turned, and Olympics 2008, no, more like 2012

Tue. Sep. 11, 05:32:00 pm AEST  

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