Thursday, May 22, 2008

Opportunity knocks - Socceroos vs Ghana preview

VERY excited about the prospect of seeing the latest Socceroos 11 take on The Black Stars of Ghana tomorrow night at the SFS and seeing who, if any of the team, can step up to the plate.

Pim Verbeek has already been on the record as saying the result isn't so important, that this game is more about the performances, and he's right of course. But that won't disguise the fact he wants a result, as much to protect his own unbeaten record and also to maintain confidence and momentum ahead of the upcoming quartet of qualifiers.

Whether he gets the result though isn't so straightforward. Not only will the Roos be fielding a largely second-string side, but they'll be doing it against a pretty decent outfit.

Ok, sadly Ghana are missing two of the biggest names and two of my favourite players, in Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari, but it's still a pretty formidable team and contains a number of 'first-choice' players that finished third at January/February's African Nations Cup, including Eric Addo, Anthony Annan, John Pantsil, John Mensah, Haminu Draman and Junior Agogo.

Of those, one of the most impressive is striker Agogo, who caught the eye and scored the late equaliser against the Socceroos in London in November 2006 and was the 'star' of their Nations Cup run.

The Black Stars will have much to play for tomorrow, with world cup qualifiers on the horizon and uncertainty over who will take them through the campaign. Like the Roos, spots are up for grabs, which should make this very competitive.

Up front, Agogo will get ample support from either Owusu-Abeyie Quincy or the new kid on the block, Emmanuel Agyemang Badu, who might yet be brought off the bench.

It is likely there will be plenty of work for the 'new-look' Socceroos rearguard, which in all likelihood will be marshaled by the "new number two" Jade North, who was so impressive in A-League version 3 and recent Roos games against Singapore and China.

If the flexible Verbeek decides to go with a back three, it will mean the two Nurnberg towers, Michael Beauchamp and Matthew Spiranovic, belatedly making his debut, could surround North.

Verbeek is said to be impressed with his first glimpse of Spiranovic in camp, and while he noted a bit of 'shyness', it was his 'tactical decision-making' that caught the managers eye.

Translated, that means he is confident Spiranovic can do the job. Whether he starts could depend on Ghana's tactical plans, whether they play two or three up front.

If Verbeek sees Ghana adopt the modern trend of the front three, he can revert to a back four. In that case, Adam Griffiths might get another chance at right back with David Carney on the opposite side. Spiranovic, you sense, would start on the bench.

In midfield, missing Vince Grella and Carl Valeri, you sense another opportunity might arise for Mile Jedinak, who is said to have impressed the manager in the Singapore game. Against Ghana's power, he might be suited, but he will need to be disciplined.

If distribution isn't Jedinak's greatest attribute, nearby the dependable Jason Culina should provide that, even if he isn't fully fit. Such a professional.

All the while he will be looking to prompt and support a front trio of Harry Kewell, Joel Griffiths and the on-call Mile Sterjovski.

It is an opportunity for all three, for different reasons. Sterjovski was a regular starter under Hiddink, but appeared to lose out to the 'stars' (how to fit 12 into 11) at the Asian Cup. He is yet to play under Verbeek, but did some decent stuff in a terrible Derby side.

Kewell's career continues to stall due to injury. The manager has made no secret of his love for Kewell, so fingers crossed the 'skipper' can get through some decent minutes, and have his usual influence. After breaking down in Singapore and missing Kunming, Kewell will be hoping his body can hold up.

Which brings us to Joel Griffiths, who finally gets a sniff and will be moving all over the place trying to find an opening. Mobility and an eye for goal are his biggest assets and the Ghana defenders will sure know they've been in a contest by the 90th minute. The pressure is on, so fingers crossed he can handle it.

Of the youngsters, Verbeek has hinted that Mark Bridge and James Holland will start from the bench. James Troisi and Nikolai Topor-Stanley are others in the mix and should get some time, so seeing how long that is and how well they use it will make for fascinating viewing.

With so many players out, and others there or thereabouts, it's not everyday opportunities like this knock, so it's time to grab them.

ALSO looking forward to getting out the SFS early to see how the 'new-look' Matildas are developing post last year's World Cup. There's some fresh faces about, but my biggest hope is that they're defending higher up the pitch.

1 Comments:

Blogger pippinu said...

Good summary Tony.

With such a paucity of strikers and AMs in the squad, one senses that we'll start with a 4-2-3-1 type of set-up. This might almost sound counter-intuitive, but a rejigged 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 could actually suit the personnel available (with the wide attackers starting relatively deep, if Pim is intent on a more defensive set-up). As you say, this game is more about seeing which players can follow a game plan, follow team rules, display tactical awareness, etc.

But as always, as a fan, we prefer a good perfomance to come with the right result!

Fri. May 23, 09:52:00 am AEST  

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