Sunday, March 23, 2008

Heavy work as Singapore flood

Socceroos (0) v Singapore (0) friendly review and China wcq preview

IF last night’s friendly against Singapore was all about seeing who of the young or fringe players could step up to pressure of international level and press their claims for honours later on, as I argued at the bottom of yesterday’s piece, then unfortunately the heavy conditions didn’t really allow Pim Verbeek an accurate gauge of where his men are at. Indeed, nor did it really give the players a fair chance to make a serious case for Kuming and beyond, but even then, Verbeek will have learnt a bit about his men, some of it good, some of it not so good. Here I run the rule over last night’s contributors, with an eye towards China and beyond;

Ante Covic, 6; Didn’t have a great deal to do, but looked a little nervy on a couple of long range efforts. Got down well to his left to deny Singapore a late winner and generally his distribution when releasing with the arm was good.

Adam Griffiths, 5; looked very nervous and hesitant in the first period and not very comfortable out on the right. Over-hit his distribution too often and will surely not have convinced Verbeek he is up to the task of filling Emerton’s boots on Wednesday. Looked a little more comfortable in the middle towards the end where he won a couple of headers.

Jade North, 7; one of Australia’s best, he made a number of very good defensive reads, covering his backline and making timely interventions. On the ball he was neat, but not always accurate, especially when he went long. Looked better when he went looking for a short option out of the back, it was good to see him take his recent A-league form onto the international stage. The fact he got the captains armband after the break means Verbeek thinks highly of him, but we already know that. Wouldn’t look out of place alongside Neill in central defence or out wide on the right against China, it seems North has finally matured.

Michael Beauchamp, 6; a little rash in the challenge on the odd occasion, he had a tough job shadowing the mobile Singapore captain Indra Sahdan, but stuck to the job well and proved he is still one of our best man-markers.

Nikolai Topor-Stanley, 6.5; looked really good early, getting forward and providing a bit of width, but slowed down after about 20 minutes, sticking more to the defensive stuff, most of which he did reasonably well. Stayed alive when the ball was on the other side and made one important interception in the 90th minute. Decent debut.

Mile Jedinak, 5.5; Not bad, but could have been much better. More a ball winner than a distributor (say like a Musialik or Valeri), didn’t see enough of him seeking the ball from the defence and launching the Socceroos attack, or seeking the ball and switching it from side to side. The holding midfielder must boss the game and we didn’t see enough of this. Late on he was turned inside the box, which might have proved more costly. Surprised he gets a gig in the China squad given Grella, Valeri, Culina and Wilkshire are already there.

Harry Kewell, 6; playing in the unfamiliar central midfield space, it was a surprise to see Kewell playing so deep at times, often calling for the ball out of defence and looking to feed his strikers. Most of the things he did were neat, but there was very little space of him to do it in. Would be great to see him let loose in a wider area on Wednesday.

James Troisi, 7; played left of Kewell and did some really neat things on the ball, with both feet. Probably could have got wide more often, but appeared to be under instructions to “tuck-in”, as we heard Arnold instruct through the side-line microphone. Hit one right foot blast in the first period and showed good defensive discipline, showing Verbeek he can do a job. Would be nice to seem him again, especially with a little more license to get forward.

James Holland, 6.5; thrust in an unfamiliar role, on the right of a midfield diamond, Holland was generally neat, without every really getting in behind the Singapore left back. When moved into a more familiar holding role alongside Jedinak in the second period he looked more comfortable. Like Troisi he proved he can do a job, and better days lie ahead.

Mark Bridge, 5.5; quiet, he struggled to really link with the likes of Thompson and Kewell in the first period. When Djite and Burns came on in the second period, Bridge had some familiarity and the football looked better, but a technical ball-playing footballer of his nature was never really going to enjoy the heavy going. Better days will come.

Archie Thompson, 6; like Kewell, given 45 minutes, but failed to really make an impression in the heavy going. Got in behind a couple of times, but generally there was little space for Thompson to weave his magic as Singapore flooded back. Not sure he did enough to get into the starting 11 against China.


Bruce Djite, 6; started the second half really well, using his power to trouble the Singapore defence, create one chance with his strength and generally hold the ball up well and linking with Olyroo mates Bridge and Burns. But then he drifted out of it as the hosts took control in the final quarter of the match.

Nathan Burns, 6.5; busy and mobile, he was everywhere, dropping back to help in defence and driving forward despite the heavy conditions. Plenty of good things to come.

Ryan Griffiths, 4; a mystery why he was even called into the squad.

Leigh Broxham, 4.5; brought on in the unfamiliar right-back role, he did well to get to the by-line with one of his first touches, before going missing in his defensive duties a short time later.

Adrian Leijer, 5; not really enough time to make an impression, but I still think he could move right up the central defensive pecking order if he can every find some regular game time at Fulham. Maybe Beijing will be his showcase.

SO with all that in mind, attention now turns to the China qualifier on Wednesday night, and given the quality of the players that have pulled out from the original squad with injury (Cahill, Kennedy, Emerton and Sterjovski) or been left out (Carle and Burns) and the fact the game is at altitude, things appear to be looking a little more difficult for the Socceroos.

The 21-man squad for now looks like this;

Keepers; Schwarzer, Covic
Defenders; Beauchamp, Carney, Kisnorbo, Neill, North, A Griffiths, Topor-Stanley
Midfielders; Grella, Culina, Valeri, Jedinak, Wilkshire, Holman
Attack; Bresciano, Kewell, McDonald, Bridge, Thompson, Djite

Verbeek appears to have a number of interesting posers;

Who he plays at right back? North is one option, but I wouldn’t be surprised to even find him in the centre of defence, alongside Neill. If that’s the case, the everywhere man, Wilkshire, who will be somewhere in the staring 11, appears the safest bet at right back.

Who partners Neill in central defence? Beauchamp will probably get it, but on recent form North would do ok, I sense.

Whether he goes with three up front (McDonald through the middle with support on the flanks from Bresciano and Kewell) or two up front (McDonald appears to struggle as a sole striker)? I sense McDonald might get a partner through the middle, either Thompson or Kewell. If it is Kewell, Bresciano would be on the left and Verbeek would need an option on the right now that Sterjovski is out thanks to a typically reckless challenge from notorious Middlesbrough thug Lee Cattermole (why on earth is this tool allowed to masquerade as a footballer?). If Verbeek goes with Thompson up front, Kewell and Bresciano could play on the flanks (even though both are lefties), with Culina and Grella holding the central midfield.

With all that in mind, here is a starting 11 that I hope is strong enough to grab at least a point in Kuming, hopefully more;



Blogger James said...

It's not going to be easy, is it? I'm starting to feel that if we can escape from Kunming with a solid draw, no injury worries, no stupid yellows or send offs we should be fairly happy.

It's going to be fascinating to see if the boys can really turn it on as they did against Qatar, but I wonder if trying to blow China away in the first 30 mins wouldn't be a tad foolhardy...

Mon. Mar. 24, 11:42:00 am AEDT  
OpenID australianfootball said...

Agree with pretty much everything except I thought Bridge just looked lazy when compared to the work horses like Djite and Thompson.

I thought Kewell played well and really bossed the game that most players couldn't get a handle on. I actually don't want him to play wide any more, his lost the pace and ability to dribble pace players. He needs to play central where others can do the leg work and he can use his movement and vision (i.e. use his intelligence) to influence the game.

Mon. Mar. 24, 02:03:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger pippinu said...

Plenty to think about there, to which I'd like to add:
1. I can't recall a squad in recent times that contained so many defenders - it's a bit of a surprise that all four from the other night made the squad (I'm not saying they didn't deserve it, but certainly our coverage here seems deeper than other squads in recent times).
2. Add to that - I can't recall a recent squad carrying three specialist DMs (recalling also that both Culina and Wilkshire can assist in that role). Perhaps suggestive of Pim's likely tactics?
3. That all of Arch, Bridge and Djite made it is also a bit of a surprise.
4. All of the above means that this squad is carrying fewer attacking midfielders than any squad I can recall in the last three or four years (recalling that Timmy and Sterj are injured, and that Carle and Troisi weren't considered).

The make up of this squad is suggesting to me either a 4-2-3-1 or some variation of a 4-3-3. The latter would allow Harry to play a more central attacking role, whereas the latter would probably force him out wide.

Which way we go may depend on Pim's confidence and/or willingness in going for the early goal.

The main problem with the 4-2-3-1 is that neither of Arch, Bridge or even Scotty are equipped to play the sole target man role. But Djite just might be - could he be the bolter in all of this???

Mon. Mar. 24, 05:09:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Pinuts Pethia said...

Looks like it might be last man standing with regards to the make-up of the Australian squad. Injuries to European based players might give more a-league players to chance to display what they can offer to Pim.

PS. I'd like to read your comments regarding the Man U vs Liverpool game played over the weekend?

Tue. Mar. 25, 11:01:00 am AEDT  
Blogger Brendan McMillan said...

Its looking more an more likely we will see a 4-2-3-1.

The big question is who plays the lone striker role? Not many left who are fit.

personally I think we are goign to see eiother Archie or Bridge playing the lone role up front which is damn scary as neither are suited to the role.

Tue. Mar. 25, 11:45:00 am AEDT  
Blogger pippinu said...

"The make up of this squad is suggesting to me either a 4-2-3-1 or some variation of a 4-3-3. The latter would allow Harry to play a more central attacking role, whereas the latter would probably force him out wide."

Sorry everyone, that should have read: the former would allow Harry...

Tue. Mar. 25, 03:05:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Thanks all for comments and great to see you back on board James (the original Aussie football blogger)....and welcome aboard australianfootball and brendan, will be sure to check out your sites...

Geez, amazing what can happen in a couple of days;

McDonald no show
Djite pulls up at training
Harry in cotton wool, and now
Verbeek hit by gastro...

What next? Team bus been checked?

How Verbeek could now do with a John Aloisi or Joel Griffiths, even if only for the bench...

The injuries to McDonald and Djite have really thrown things for Pim...will be fascinating to see what he does..I suspect he might now throw in an extra body in the middle, play one up front with a shadow-man supporting from behind...

But who knows with Pim, he's full of surprises and mind games.

Archie certainly doesn't appear suited to the lone striker role and Bridge is a bit untested (but has shown he likes a big occasion)...set-pieces could be crucial if the Socceroos hope to nick a goal so maybe Beauchamp can come up trumps there and also handle the big man up front, Han Peng (impressed for Shandong in last year's ACL).

Bit worried about Carney - needs to prove he can do a dirty defensive job away from home, but he's stepped up to everything so far, so fingers crossed, esp if Jiayi plays on his side.

Reckon despite all the drama we'll be competitive for sure, just hope we don't make any of those silly errors that have blighted us from time to time..

If the boys and Pim get a point or three, it'll be a job well done. As i wrote when Pim came on board, right now the most important thing is the result.

China's recent form suggests they are vulnerable and that we'll get chances, which we MUST take.

go you mighty Socceroos!!!

Tue. Mar. 25, 08:48:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

....PS. I'd like to read your comments regarding the Man U vs Liverpool game played over the weekend?...

Surprise, surprise Pinuts!!!

Yes, you guys totally smashed us...I've heard an read a bit from lpool fans complaining about the refereeing and sir alex's influencing of epl officaldom..

Granted, there's a bit of truth in it, but really, about sunday, we can have absolutely no complaints...we were smashed off the park by the far better side...really, manure should have been a few up by the time mascherano lost the plot...had it not been for rooney's poor finishing, it would have been 3-0 at the break.

we melted, absoluetly choked...we're the world champs at beating teams 5th to 20th, but we buckle against the big 3...not good enough in so many areas.

our back 3 (carragher, skrtel and reina) were disasterous on sund, like statues most of the fact, there was hardly a good lpool player (stevie g and torres included), perhaps only mascherano before he was sent...

Man u on the other hand;

vidic and rio were unpassable.
scholes absolutely bossed the game and turned back the clock about 3 or 4 years - unbelievable.
carrick, scholes and anderson dominated central midfield.

looking hard to beat, but chelsea also look hungry enough to push ya...the gunners, unfortunately, are dieing.

i would laugh if you choked from here, but cant see it.

waiting for sir alex to rub it in.

Tue. Mar. 25, 09:31:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous sir alex said...

rub rub

Wed. Mar. 26, 04:40:00 pm AEDT  

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