Sunday, June 01, 2008

Job done, but much improvement needed

2010 World Cup qualifier, Socceroos 1 v Iraq 0

A GREAT result more than it was a great performance, a job done rather than a job well done.

This was a great contest and a wonderful game, but history won’t remember it as one of the Socceroos’ most fluid recent performances as the Iraqis did more to lose the game then Pim Verbeek’s men did to win it. We were lucky.

But for some wastefulness in front of goal from the likes of Hawar Mulla Mohammed, Younes Mahmoud and Emad Mohammed and a couple of strong moments from Schwarzer it might well have been the Iraqis with the momentum as Australia’s campaign shifts to a fortnight in the heat of the Middle East.

As it is, the Socceroos now sit on seven points from three games, knowing that one more win will take them to 10 points, the figure Verbeek believes will get them over the first hurdle.

If and when they do get to the next phase, and face the likes of Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea, Iran and Uzbekistan, one thing’s for certain; the performance, especially in the heart of the defence and the final third, will need to improve.

In many ways, this was very much a below strength side, especially in the two areas I mentioned above, and both areas will improve with the eventual return of new fathers Neill, Sterjovski and Kennedy.

Right from the start and contrary to the pre-game talk from Verbeek that Iraq had come to sit, Adnan Hamad’s men exposed the insecurity and inexperience in the heart of the Roos defence, coming at Australia, pressing high, and creating some uncertainty, especially from set-pieces.

With the skipper putting himself about in the style we grew familiar with at the Asian Cup and Hawar, Emad and Mahdi Karim stretching Australia with their pace and width on the vast and patchy Suncorp pitch, it might have and should have been a different story.

Emad was unlucky to hit the cross-bar early, before finding himself inside the box, unmarked midway through the first period after some poor defensive work from Carney and Beauchamp (Carney let his man Karim duck inside, Beauchamp went across to rescue and left his man, Emad, unmarked). Fortunately, they were rescued by Schwarzer, who stayed up as long as possible.

Later in the half, Mahmoud failed to hit the target with a free header, six or seven yards out. Australia was leading a charmed life in making it six clean sheets on the trot.

In and around that, the Socceroos had a couple of chances, the best falling to Mark Bresciano after some lovely interchange between he, Kewell and McDonald. In truth, that early move was one of Australia’s best moments in the game.

Kewell, after a disappointing performance against Ghana a week ago, was back to his exhilarating best, his touch, movement and leap proving too slick for the likes of Haider and Ali Rahema. He looked trim (who didn’t in the new-look fitted strip, a flattering one for the players, not so flattering on most of us fans), young and fresh.

Having seen some highlights of him burning Zadkovich in training on Thursday evening, it wasn’t a great surprise to see him doing so well here. You sensed he was in the mood.

After warming up with a couple of headers in the first period, his bullet early in the second, teed up by Wilkshire, was a reminder that, on his day, there hasn’t been a better player in the green and gold, ever.

The hope now is that his body can hold up over the next two years, especially throughout the crucial games that a sure to come in the next phase. But would you bet on it?

One thing that appears more certain is that the Socceroos, with the likes of Grella, Culina and Wilkshire in midfield, and Emerton chiming in from right back, will continue to control possession well. Certainly, the Socceroos did a far better job of controlling the midfield (in the process nullifying the threat of the Asian Cup nemesis Nashat Akram) than they did against Ghana.

Problem was, for all their neat ball-possession, there wasn’t enough forward support of Kewell and McDonald. Cahill was definitely missed.

But perhaps not as much as Neill. Often the space between the defensive line and the attack was far too spacious, and the midfield had acres to cover.

Hitherto Jade North has looked extremely comfortable alongside Neill, but here he had the responsibility to organise, and it was a task he probably wasn’t ready for, especially against such quality opposition. I thought the Jets skipper played well, especially in second period, cleaning up a number of Beauchamp bloopers, but he will need more time alongside Neill to develop into the composed “boss” that is required at this level.

Carney also needs games and time and was again caught out a couple of times as Iraq got in behind and ducked inside, but he made up for them with a couple of timely interventions.

In the second period, the Socceroos were again lucky to survive a couple of Emad and Mahmoud efforts, but Iraq’s best chance came late when Hawar beat the offside trap, only to have the ball hold up a touch, forcing him to volley straight at Schwarzer.

Verbeek by then had introduced the likes of Holman and Djite, the latter doing a couple of good things, including teeing up a chance for Holman, who shot wide.

Overall, this was far from an impressive performance, lucky even, but in the context of what’s required to get through this phase, is should be enough.

If Qatar and China draw on Tuesday morning our time, Iraq will be only three points from second, and still in with a sniff, but a win, to either side, will make it much much harder for the troubled Asian Championships.

As Verbeek said post-match, knowing Iraq, they will fight to the end, so a tough trip to Dubai awaits.


Blogger john said...

Were you there in your trim shirt Tony?

Sun. Jun. 01, 11:17:00 pm AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Not this time john. Sadly, I choose the hang around in Sydney and check out my fav ever player, Zizou, for the first time live, only to be disappointed.

Btw, you definitely wont find me in one of those.

Sun. Jun. 01, 11:29:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Football Bets said...

I was a very proud LFC man in the crowd tonight. Well done Harry, sorry to see you leave LFC, all the best with the aussies and at whatever your future club may be.

Iraq looked pretty good for a war torn country with bombed out facilities

We miss a player like Cahill when he is injured it shows how essential he is. Probably the same reason why Everton fell away so much when he was injured.

Mon. Jun. 02, 01:48:00 am AEST  
Anonymous sir alex said...

C'mon Tony, dont be so modest. You know you look good in the socceroos jersey. I've seen the photos from Germany '06.

Have to agree with you regarding the central pairing. They looked quite shaky, but i believe they need a little more time together. I enjoyed watching Culina get further up the park, he's attacking attributes at international level have been 'blunted' by the set-up of the team under previous managers.

Mon. Jun. 02, 02:15:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Pinuts Pethia said...

TT has a Green Gully shirt that doubles as a socceroos strip. Anything but a bonds singlet (cheezel plate) that you proudly strutted around in 2 years ago. Maz still has nightmares!

Mon. Jun. 02, 02:32:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous sir alex said...

it must be the green gully away strip

Mon. Jun. 02, 03:07:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry you missed a lot.

Jade North had a shocker. Nearly cost us a few goals.

We do need Lucas.

We also needed Carle in the midfield. A definate lack of creativity.

But it is the defence we need halp in. Jast as well this is Pym's forte

Mon. Jun. 02, 04:05:00 pm AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

...Jade North had a shocker. Nearly cost us a few goals....

Granted anonymous, it wasnt his best game in green and gold, but if you watch the second half in particular, he rescued his mate on few occasions...I thought he was good in the second period, except from one moment when he left Emad after Beauchamp failed to win an aerial duel with Younes...and I stand by the comments in my piece, that the guy needs time at this level to feel comfortable enough to "boss" the defence. He looked very nervous early without Neill dictating alongside.

...We also needed Carle in the midfield. A definate lack of creativity....

At half time, with the lack of penetration from Culina from the top of the diamond, I felt Culina should have been moved to the right and Carle introduced at the head of the diamond...but Verbeek moved Culina to the left, Bresciano to the top of the diamond and Wilkshire, within a couple of minutes, had provided the cross for the only goal. I was happy enough Verbeek had kept him on.

Mon. Jun. 02, 10:16:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jade North was caught out for sure positionally and even skinned by Mahmoud a couple of times

Really it re-iterates what Pim was saying for the need of the A-league standard to improve

Nevertheless, im sure it will with time.. its becoming even more essential for the National team

Tue. Jun. 03, 11:45:00 am AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TT, i saw veerbek's comments in the smh about North needing time to become a leader and I thought 'I've read that argument before'. J

Tue. Jun. 03, 07:42:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous hypocrisy said...

"Jade North was caught out for sure positionally and even skinned by Mahmoud a couple of times

Really it re-iterates what Pim was saying for the need of the A-league standard to improve"

So was Beauchamp on many occasions. Are you also suggesting that the Bundesliga needs to improve?

Thu. Jun. 05, 12:58:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"""Jade North was caught out for sure positionally and even skinned by Mahmoud a couple of times

Really it re-iterates what Pim was saying for the need of the A-league standard to improve"

So was Beauchamp on many occasions. Are you also suggesting that the Bundesliga needs to improve?""

HENCE why he is not having his contract renewed at FC Nurnberg apaprently?? and why he can not sustain a permanent place in the first team???

How long did it take him to break into the first team at Nurnberg? AGES, and even still u watch some of the first few games he played in there were times when he got completely caught out..

Fri. Jun. 06, 11:09:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the a-league standard improves it just makes a much easier transition for these players to get into the National team

Bah its gonna be essential in the future anyway.. we are gonna be forced to do it or risk not producing the quality of players to get us into the World Cup..

Fri. Jun. 06, 11:12:00 pm AEST  

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