Sunday, August 03, 2008

Olyroo expectations lessen by the game, and word

HAVING suffered three warm-up losses on the spin to China, Japan and South Korea, at least the talk of an Olyroos medal at the Beijing Games, which kick-off with Thursday’s opener against Serbia, has stopped.

In truth, having drawn one of the toughest groups and in a tournament featuring players of the ilk of Riquelme, Messi, Aguero, Mascherano, Kalou, Diego, Pato, Ronaldinho, Kompany, Emanuelson, Bakkal, Drenthe, Babel, Odemwingie, Anichebe, Adu, Altidore, Rossi, Li Weifeng and Kim Jung-woo, the talk of a medal was fanciful in the first place.

For starters, Graham Arnold’s controversial omission of Djite, Burns and Holland has set the tempo, and the recent results have re-emphasised just how tough things will be.

Indeed, of their five most recent Olympic Games opponents, the Olyroos have only won one, against New Zealand, and lost four, the first against Nigeria in the final of Intercontinental Cup in Kuala Lumpur in May, followed by the three losses in the past week or so.

On that evidence, you would have to say that Arnold will do well to get a point or two, let alone get out of the group. If they do get out of the group, say in second place, it will have been a mighty performance. But no easy opponent would be waiting in the quarter final. Facing them would be the winner of the real ‘group of death’, featuring Japan, Netherlands, Nigeria and USA.

After being cock-a-hoop a few weeks ago, claiming the aim was a medal, Arnold has certainly changed his tune of late, and there’s little doubt the Olyroos now go into the games as one of the rank outsiders.

Either that or he’s being doing his best to divert the attention away from his side, arguing that one of the Asian sides will go a long way. Presumably, he wasn’t talking about his own;

“The Asian’s are in their climate; their conditions, their environment and they showed at the 2002 World Cup when they are in their own countries, how well they can perform and I think one of them will go close to getting a medal, if not winning a medal.”

Arnold has also been trying hard not to give away too many house secrets ahead of the Serbia clash, claiming via an FFA teleconference ahead of the most recent loss to South Korea that he’d be keeping his first 11 thoughts close to his chest;

“I’m not going to show my hand too much. As the Serbian coach has admitted he doesn’t know much about us.”

Later, in the same forum, he went on to elaborate, and indeed did give away some those house secrets;

“There are other things we are working on with the central defence pairing of Jade North and Matt Spiranovic with a new keeper; Milligan’s been playing in the centre of midfield with Musialik, so there is a few new players; new combinations.”

On what of the recent arrival, David Carney?

“He has settled in very well. He’s been in 3-4 days; done all the training sessions. He’s one I know that can handle the heat and he’ll start tomorrow night for sure. He’ll play left side up front in a 4-3-3. He’ll be in the attacking part of the field.”

So much for keeping things close to the chest.

The Serbian coach now knows at least seven of Arnold’s starters, with the odd mystery around who will start between the sticks, at right fullback (McClenahan or Zadkovich), whether Thompson will play through the middle or out on the right (in which case Bridge would start up front), and who will play in the hole behind the striker (if Thompson plays up front, Bridge is likely to slot in behind, with Sarkies or Zadkovich on the right).

Seemingly, Arnold is pinning most of his hope on Thompson regaining some of the verve and threat he demonstrated in A-League version 2. Other than the Melbourne Victory man, the Olyroos don’t appear to have too many natural goal-getters, and Arnold may well rue the omission of Djite, especially in light of his pre-season form in Turkey.

The pre-tournament signs haven’t been the greatest and expectation and confidence has been evaporating by the day. A rousing win over the Miroslav Dukic’s men would certainly change the mood, but with Serbia’s players sprinkled throughout Italy, France, Germany and Spain, and having achieved some wonderful results in Europe, there’s no doubt they’ll offer quality and be tough to breach.

Arnold has been quoted recently saying Argentina “do not put any fear into us”, but the reality is the focus should entirely be on Serbia.

It’s one thing to talk tough, but better to just play the underdog and sneak up on teams.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

He sure says some silly things that Arnie fella.

Good luck boys.


Sun. Aug. 03, 08:23:00 pm AEST  
Blogger Adam said...

Love his quote about the Messi saga! Clown, hasn't he heard of riquelme, aguero etc.

It's amazing who long your well placed friends in the media can keep you in a job no matter how incompetent you seem to be.

Rant aside, nice article as always TT

Sun. Aug. 03, 08:45:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Pinuts Pethia said...

Although I wish they prove me wrong, I don't expect much from this Aussie team.

Based on previous teams sent to the Olympics, this one does look fairly ordinary and lacking of quality.

I think the first game is crucial. We need a positive result.

It will be interesting to note the temperament of not only the Serbian team but some of our own players.

Mon. Aug. 04, 01:02:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Ed Vegas said...

Serbia 2, roo's nil. Archie yellow card for diving.

Tue. Aug. 05, 10:11:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arnie is a poor coach who has selected poorly as well.

We will lose the three games.

Wed. Aug. 06, 10:06:00 am AEST  
Blogger againstthecrossbar said...

To be honest the Olyroos can only exceed my expectations.

Mine you I fully expect us to lose every match so it can only be positive from there.

If Arnie could walk away with two draws or a sngle win to me that is the best we could possibly hope for.

I would be rapt for them to prove me wrong.

Wed. Aug. 06, 03:01:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous mad dog said...

You don't rate Rukavysta at all? This kid has a great deal of talent, I hope he plays, I think he will be a weapon.

Wed. Aug. 06, 08:46:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SUPERB article Tony. Fantastic stuff, you hit the nail on the head with Arnold and the team’s chances of progression. I also noticed a few weeks ago that Holland is waiting in the quarters, they would be much too strong for us. Drenthe Makay and Babel is an awesome attacking trio.

In a nutshell I think we might sneak a win tonight but chances after that are very slim indeed. That should be the end of Arnold once and for all.

I am still fuming at the omission of Burns,Djite

Peter Kandy.

Thu. Aug. 07, 05:30:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous mad dog said...

Rukavysta is a gun, a weapon if you will, write him off at your own peril, I reckon he will eat up this tournament and that it will be the making of him

Thu. Aug. 07, 07:49:00 pm AEST  
Blogger tootie76 said...

I think Rukavysta is a gun, and that this tournament will be the making of him.

He is a weapon, and far from being 'lite' up front, we may prove to be 'heavy' hitters once hpstlities commence.

Thu. Aug. 07, 07:56:00 pm AEST  

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