Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Heading in the right direction

2010 World Cup qualifier, Socceroos 3 v Qatar 0

EARLY days, but happy days.

As far as a world cup campaign launch goes, this this was just about as good as it gets; three nil, three points and three cheers.

After the disappointment of the Socceroos showing at the Asian Cup, Australia, collectively, can breath a little easier. So our team can play!

Tellingly, the damage was done early. Pim Verbeek promised goal-getters and he delivered, pairing Kennedy with McDonald up top, with the king of midfield goal-getters Cahill lending aerial thrust from behind.

Not surprisingly, with such aerial power, the modus operandi was to utilise the fullbacks, Emerton and Carney, and charge them with the responsibilty of getting plenty of ball into the box for Kennedy and Cahill to attack.

Both got on the scoresheet within the first 20 minutes, Kennedy after a brilliantly patient build-up which saw the ball moved swiftly from the right, to the left, back through the middle and out to the right again, where Emerton provided a pin-point ball to take the weight of Pim's and the nation's shoulders. Cahill soon had the chill-pills out again, getting on the end of an excellent Wilkshire set piece, catching the keeper in no-mans land.

Emerton was everywhere, dominating the right and feeding off the service of the tempo-setter, Culina, who had a field day in the holding role, moving the ball around from left to right, all with accuracy and pace.

In front of Emerton, Wilkshire, often maligned, had one of his best days yet in green and gold, always tucking in, lending support to Culina and allowing Emerton to bomb on. He even provided the odd thrust out of midfield, firing one shot just wide and drawing a save from another.

On the other flank Bresciano provided more width and linked up well with McDonald, while the movement of Cahill and Bresciano proved too much for the Qataris in the first period. Defending far too deep, they also showed the Aussies far too much respect, rarely getting close enough to make a challenge.

Bresciano soon found himself untracked and on the end of a neat square ball from McDonald. Bang, 3-0.

It could have been a few more, Kennedy forcing a good save at the near post, while Cahill kept ghosting in late, remarkably free.

At the back, the world cup duo of Moore and Neill were back in tandem for one last dance, the latter, entrusted with the armband, stepping on the ball, bringing back the memories. The former, Moore, was as relaxed as ever, the pity being that there aren't enough A-League games to keep him ticking over till at least the end of the first phase of qualifiers.

Moore will be missed, but at least he went out in style.

This was a brilliant first half performance, helped in part by Jorge Fossati's error in not starting the central midfield holder, Wasim Rizik, who made a positive impression for the visitors in the second period.

While Qatar were poor in the first period, it was great to see the Socceroos rekindle some of the vibrancy of Germany. A disorganised posse seven month ago, at times it was hard to recognise this in-synch and on-song mob, the movement of the ball and off the ball eye-catching.

While the team lost "power", to borrow Verbeek's phrase, in the second period, the damage had been done.

Verbeek must surely take much of the credit for moulding the team into cohesive unit in such a short space of time and making the right call in recalling the Europeans. Managers at this level live and die by their results and decisions, and for Verbeek, this was an emphatic first impression.

For now, having got off to the all-important perfect start on the road to South Africa, the FFA will also feel vindicated for sticking with the Dutch theme, and it was easy to see that infleunce all over the place here. While Verbeek, Henk Duut and Rob Baan were part of the off-field brains-trust, on the field there was PSV's Culina, Twente's Wilkshire and Feyenord old-boy Emerton, not to mention substitute Holman.

No doubt challenges lie ahead, but for now the Socceroos can take a bow and the rest of us rest assured our team are back, ready to have a crack at world cup qualification.


Anonymous Jarvis said...

The first half was entertaining. Great to see the Socceroos playing like a unit, but I have to say that Qatar played pretty poor over all.

3 points! good start, bring on the next game!

Thu. Feb. 07, 01:19:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous Scotty said...

You were on the money Tony with your comments about the Qatar's inability to handle Kennedy and Cahill in the air!

It seemed aerial bombardment from the wide areas was Pim's plan to get the early goal and it worked brilliantly. Kennedy looms as such a weapon in Asia, as does Tim Cahill mind you. It was definitely Scott McDonald's best game in the Green and Gold, he did a power of work particularly in the wide areas.

It seemed like every call Pim made, tactically, structurally he got right. We were just so cohesive in the early going, our midfield absolutely dominated and I loved the play of our full backs too. They're play really helped to unlock the Qatari's. Despite the problems of Arnie' tenure, his decision to first call up David Carney, and then throw him into the fray at the Asian Cup was an inspired one. He has been nothing short of a revelation on the left hand side. Who would have though he could play as a left full back not long ago, when his defensive game was mediocre at best. His growth at the national level has been crucial.

Cannot wait for the China game now. It will be very interesting to see how Pim approaches this one. Do we counter attack or try dominate the game like we did last night? China are certainly beatable and 6 points would be a tremendous start. China couldn't deal with the size, strength and control of Viduka last time we played so again Kennedy looms as a weapon.

Thu. Feb. 07, 09:27:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous James said...

A great start to our campaign. Three goals, three points and a dominant 1st half. Mind you, Qtar were poor!

However I wasn't overly enthused about the second half. I don't know if fatigue started to take its toll or whether the Aussie relaxed a little, but they did allow the opposition to play and create a few chances. The second half reminded me of the Asia Cup in many ways.

There are no excuses for a lacklustre 2nd half. Pim has plenty of work to do before we play Made in China!

Thu. Feb. 07, 10:58:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous no more dick said...

good blog tony - was at the match and granted the Qataris were poor but I thought that Pim's tactics, shape etc were spot on.
Only concerns:
Depth - once Cahill went off we looked a bit toothless going forward. I accept that fatigue had started to set in but this still worries me.
Ditto comment for when Kennedy went off - the Qataris easily coped with the aerial assault
Craig Moore - great send-off but I'm worried about losing his aerial ability in set pieces/corners etc. Neill is not an aerial threat but we need that additional tall otherwise sides will just target Kennedy.
Corners - Why doesn't Bresch take the corners? Wilkshire is ok but the crosses are too slow. Ok, its there arent many Recobas or Ryan Giggs around but surely Bresh would be a better option than Luke.
Still, I ecstatic. I was always a fan of Pim but even I didn't realise how his honesty with the media/fans would work in our favour. It seemed to give the players the confidence to go out and do the job. I think the soccer media are still coming to terms with someone who doesn't roll out the usual cliches. Bravo Pim.

Thu. Feb. 07, 11:33:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed re Wilkshire. His delivery, especially from corners was outstanding. Carney also did good.

What the hell is Holman doing in the side? What does he offer? I still stand by my comments in previous posts that Mark Bresciano is over rated and cant pass a ball to save himself. Now that he scored, i'll have to put up with him for another two years. Sigh!

Thu. Feb. 07, 01:42:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger Mike Salter said...

Strange the way everyone's praising Wilko's delivery from corners. Apart from the one that led to the second goal (which was abysmal defending more than anything else), he often went too deep and too gentle. Otherwise he had a good game, though.

TBH I didn't see much difference between that performance and some that the team produced under Arnie in friendlies (Ghana, Nigeria, China). In this case, inferior opposition made us look very good for the first half, before tiredness (and flagging interest?) played its part.

Still, can't complain. And Pim deserves credit for his general scruff-of-the-neck approach to the game.

Thu. Feb. 07, 03:00:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Scotty said...

........TBH I didn't see much difference between that performance and some that the team produced under Arnie in friendlies (Ghana, Nigeria, China). In this case, inferior opposition made us look very good for the first half, before tiredness (and flagging interest?) played its part

There's no doubting there was some great football played by the Roos under Arnie, Mikey.

I think the difference here though is the majority of good football under Arnie was produced in friendlies. This is a big stage against a style of opposition (in theory anyway, because Qatar weren't much in the form of opposition) we've struggled with. Admittedly the Asian Cup was under much more trying conditions but there wasn't once in that tournament (I would argue), where we dictated the terms in anything remotely like the manner we did last night. There was brief moments, but they were very very brief and nothing like the 45 minutes of utter dominance we saw last night

As excited as I am after last night, I do (and I imagine many others) need to remind ourselves that it was a great performance against the "weakest" team in our group, at home. China game will be very interesting

Thu. Feb. 07, 10:11:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger pippinu said...

Scotty - you're right that we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves, and that Qatar is nominally the weakest of the group.

On the other hand, I for one was convinced that we were not going to staff the whole starting line up with overseas players - it was just too risky given the short turn around. I was wrong.

Players made the long trip, had time for only one training run, met Pim for the first time - and yet produced a performance of a team that had been in camp together for weeks (as Qatar had been). There are tougher games to come, but in one sense, we just passed an extremely tough test. China will be difficult given the venue, but our preparation will probably be better. The last 4 games we will have the full squad available with even more time to prepare.

Lastly, it should be noted that Qatar are ranked 9th in Asia. They may have looked amateurish in the first half, but they definitely are not mugs. They probably had two of their best players missing and the early goal would have shattered their spirits (thank you Josh). They'll be tough on their sand heap in 40 degree heat, and don't be surprised if they take an away point from either Iraq or China (which would be fantastic for us).

All in all - it's quite acceptable to enjoy this one!

Fri. Feb. 08, 10:31:00 am AEDT  
Blogger pippinu said...

I got thinking today about whether our present squad is an improvement on team 2006 - and started checking the ages of the various players in and around the squad.

You can read my deliberations on the matter in my blog:


Fri. Feb. 08, 05:29:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

thanks all for your thought-provoking comments...

i certainly agree with the prevailing sentiment that we neednt get carried away with this first up emphatic performance...

Lets remain the masters of detail, which i'm sensing is one of Pim's strengths, just as it was with Hiddink...

It's early days, but good signs..

Like many, I was very nervous about this game, thinking it a real banana-skin given the preperation, so to end up with a 3-0 was just perfect in my mind...

After all, this was a real test, a meaningful game, just as it was in the Asian Cup, and this is where managers are and should be judged...I've heard sentiment in some quarters, John Kosmina for example in today's smh, that it was a bit of overkill from Verbeek..surely he's having a laugh!!!

What would he be saying if we'd gone in with A-leaguers only and been beaten?

Fri. Feb. 08, 08:36:00 pm AEDT  

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