Friday, June 27, 2008

Some tough early stuff on the road to SA

A look at the phase 4 draw

IT could have been better and it could have been worse. That was Pim Verbeek's fair assessment of tonight's draw.

It's a tough one, especially early, but wasn't that exactly what our move into Asia almost 1000 days ago (yes, already two and a half years ago) was meant to be like?

When you looked at the possibilities beforehand and the potential that we could have been paired with two from Iran, Japan and Saudi Arabia, the fact we only got one of the three reads well. The fact it's arguably the toughest, Japan, is not so great.

When you looked at the next pot, 3, we definitely wanted Bahrain, so that's good news.

The fun ended in the next pot, 4, where we drew the floater, or 'the elephant in the room', as Simon Hill described them, Uzbekistan, the first team to get through to this phase, and a nation with players of the ilk of Djeparov and Kapadze, so impressive in the qualifiers and for their club Kuruvchi in the ACL.

Drawing Qatar again wasn't so bad given we appeared to have the edge over them in phase three, but take nothing for granted, especially with the likes of Quintana and Cesar around.

Given the familiarity, it would have been great if Qatar had landed in position four, meaning the first game (matchday 2) was away in Doha. Instead, it's a tough trip to Tashkent. Here's Pim;

“They are very Russian-orientated; have a few players with top clubs in Russia and are physically strong, skilful players. They did very well at the Asian Cup last year and were very good when we went there with Korea.”

The positives are it lands on a Fifa date, and given Tashkent's proximity to Europe, the logistics don't look so bad, with the likelihood of a friendly four days earlier, when the other teams are immersed in matchday 1.

After hosting Qatar on matchday 3, the matchday 4 and 5 away double in Bahrain and Japan look tricky given they aren't on Fifa world cup dates.

Bahrain we had the edge over in Asian Cup qualifying, both home and away, but the short preparation won't help. Fingers crossed by the time the Socceroos jet into Japan there is a neat little buffer developing at the top of the table.

Indeed, with three of the first four games away from home, the odd slip-up will mean that pressure mounts, on the manager, team and the nation, and given our lack of exposure to such a lengthy qualifying route, that would be dangerous territory.

Much better, I would have thought, to build some early momentum and a little buffer with early wins at home, rather than having to chase from behind with the pressure mounting, and a matchday 10 home blockbuster against the Samurai Blue waiting. As Iraq proved in phase three, it's ain't easy chasing.

But such are the vagaries of the draw that the Socceroos, seeded, didn't have any choice but to load up late at home.

So, while the FFA might be relatively satisfied with the logistics and the prospect of a crescendo, the main hurdles do appear to be early, with only one home match this year, and three in the back half of the phase.

As such, Verbeek believes qualification will only be decided in the final two matchdays, at home to Bahrain and Japan, which would be massive for the FFA coffers and the game's exposure, but it's sure going to make for a nervy 12 months (or more), exactly what our move into Asia promised.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

good point. Vital we don't have to much to do in the 2nd half of the campaign

Sat. Jun. 28, 11:16:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually we should appreciate the physical Ubzech approach more than most.

On the positive side if we win the first match it will be a massive psychological boost.

Given we should have beaten Japan in the Asian cup when were were pathetic that is not so bad.
We have the wood on Quatar and we beat Bahrain with mostly A -leaguers in the Asian cup quailifiers.

We should get through.

no reasons why we shouldn't.

Sun. Jun. 29, 05:42:00 pm AEST  
Blogger Carlo said...

I think that we would have to be really bad to get below third in this group. Given that from third you can still make it albeit with more games I think a place at SA 2010 is looking pretty likely.

Tue. Jul. 01, 12:48:00 pm AEST  
Blogger Mike Salter said...

I honestly believe that if we can't make it through to the WC from this group, then we don't deserve to be there.

Getting the Uzbeks was a pity, for sure, but avoiding both Iran and the Saudis was a real stroke of luck.

Wed. Jul. 02, 07:12:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are your thoughts on Arnold's squad TT?

Fri. Jul. 04, 06:40:00 pm AEST  

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