TRBA SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT; ALL YOUR OLYROOS ACTION HERE
GREAT news for those of you who want to follow the Olyroos final qualifying phase for the Beijing Olympics but are a little disillusioned about the lack of TV and radio coverage.
The Round Ball Analyst will be on hand on matchdays 2, 3 and 5, starting with tomorrow night's match in Newcastle against North Korea, followed by Wednesday night's clash with Lebanon at the Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford.
The word from above is that AFC regulations don't allow for live updates, but stay tuned shortly after tomorrow night's match, due to finish approximately 9.00pm EST, for a full and comprehensive analysis.
The Olyroos currently sit equal second in Group A after drawing 0-0 away to Iraq on matchday 1 in a match played in Iraq's home away from home, Doha.
Sitting atop the group on three points are Lebanon, who survived the last 11 minutes without their skipper to win 1-0 away in Pyongyang. The match was decided by a 12th minute penalty, neatly dispatched by Ali Yaakoub after North Korean defender Ri Jun-Il was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box. Here is some footage;
Only the winners of the three groups go to the Olympics, meaning the Olyroos will be looking for some serious points from their next two games. The draw has been kind enough to give the Olyroos successive home games.
Compare that with Lebanon, who play Iraq in Beirut on Sunday morning our time, before making the treck to Gosford. North Korea, meanwhile, face a trip to Doha after Saturday's game in Newcastle.
Clearly the cards have fallen Australia's way and there should be few excuses coming from the Australian camp if the Olyroos aren't good enough to set-up the group over the next week.
The Asian Cup proved that the quality is improving across the continent, so hopefully the Australian brains-trust have learnt some valuable lessons about not underestimating the opposition.
Lebanon, for example, have won their past five qualifiers on the spin, including wins in Jakarta and Pyongyang. Seemingly, they know how to travel.
Evidently, the Olyroos have also learnt a thing or two about travelling in Asia, and a couple of sources who watched the Iraq match noted that our keeper - Danny Vukovic - was only too willing to stay on the ground and that Graham Arnold was heard encouraging his men to kill the game. It was an excellent result, a point that might prove crucial in the wash-up.
With Arnold in Melbourne for his final Socceroos fling, Rob Baan has been back in the fold, and the word is that the players had warmed to his ways by the end of the second qualification phase.
While the Olyroos will be missing the likes of Nathan Burns (suspended for tomorrow's match but back on Wednesday), Matt Spiranovic, Neil Kilkenny, James Troisi and Dario Vidosic, it is still a pretty formidable squad at Baan and Arnold's disposal, and with Mark Milligan, Mark Bridge, Kristian Sarkies and Leigh Broxham back, there is still plenty of talent on show and a starting 11 might look something like this (in 4-2-3-1 formation);
Vukovic; McLenahan, Leijer, Milligan, Topor-Stanley; Musalik, Broxham; Bridge, Sarkies, Williams; Djite
While the Socceroos are on show against Argentina in a couple of days, there is little doubt where the real focus should be. These are crucial days for our next generation of footballers, and after the recent disappointments at under 17s and under 20s level, and the Matildas missing out on the Olympics, the Olyroos have a task ahead of them to get to their sixth straight Olympics.
Stay tuned to TRBA for a comprehensive coverage.
UPDATE, Saturday 08/09/2007; According to this report in yesterday's Daily Telelgraph, it's new youth coach Steve O'Connor helping out Arnold with the Olyroos, which I guess begs the question of where is Rob Baan?