Thursday, September 11, 2008

‘Never in Panic’ - Silky start from the smart Socceroos

Final phase World Cup Qualifier, md2, Uzbekistan 0 v Socceroos 1

TALK about a controlled, composed Socceroos performance.

This was just about as good a start to the final phase of qualifiers as any Socceroos follower could have hoped for.

Away from home, in fresh, yet ancient territory, against a team that hadn’t lost a qualifier at home for 18 months, already chasing the likes of Japan and Qatar, missing a midfield enforcer, hammered by a stomach bug that robbed the midfield of its main tick-man, this was no time for excuses.

Pim Verbeek, in his typical matter-of-fact way, made that obvious in his pre-match chat to Simon Hill – “That’s life, let’s get on with the job.”

And so his Socceroos did. Right from the off they looked fresh, up-for-it, and in control. There was none of the tried, excuse-laden stuff that typified the end of the first phase.

Admittedly, the hosts, confidence battered by a series of recent losses, played their part, dropping off and allowing the Socceroos to dictate the tempo.

Spooked by the Socceroos? You bet. And as Paul Trimboli and John Kosmina pointed out in the Fox studio, they haven’t been the only ones in Asia beaten before a ball is kicked. Thankfully not every team treats us like Iraq.

The Roos are builded up a nice little aura. As much could be told by the fact the Uzbeks, at the draw for the final phase, said they wanted to get through automatically, alongside the Socceroos.

Now they’re really struggling, hammered by the rampant Qataris on the weekend, and comprehensively controlled here.

Verbeek had a couple of tough calls the make and got them spot on. Culina’s late withdrawal must have privately irked the manager, but he didn’t show it. In stepped Jacob Burns for his second qualifier on the spin after a shocker against China on the final matchday of the previous phase. It looked a brave call.

After a couple of errant early passes, he soon settled, and with the composed Valeri beside him, he soon started buzzing around and making a nuisance of himself in the face of Sever Djeparov.

Valeri, like Wilkshire, is fast becoming a key member of the Roos first 11, highlighting Verbeek’s clever and patient rejuvenation of the starting side, which is seeing others like Holman, Carney, Kennedy and Coyne come good with time, as others like Viduka and Cahill frequent the medical rooms.

As I noted in my wrap of the first phase on the84thminute, Valeri was one of the real success stories, and has continued that form with two accomplished displays in the past week.

He presses high, closing the man on the ball, before retreating, picking up the second balls, and getting the Roos moving with a simple ball, backwards, sidewards or forward. Maturity indeed.

Here Valeri and Burns provided a wonderful shield in front of an outstanding back four, allowing the fullbacks Wilkshire and Chipperfield to press-on, and picking up all the second ball clearances from wonderful central duo Neill and Coyne.

As Verbeek said of the Neill-Coyne partnership; “That’s three games together now. High balls, a lot of pressure, that’s what they like. They were never in panic.”

Indeed, the Socceroos were ‘never in panic’, to borrow the famous Verbeekism, even after the 25 minute period of sustained pressure at the start of the second period. All the defending was relaxed, and the attacking looked in-synch and organised.

Verbeek had sprung a massive surprise by leaving Kennedy on the bench, no doubt reasoning that he wanted the mobility on the front quartet of Bresciano, Holman, Kewell and Emerton, in part to stretch the Uzbek rearguard, in part to stay in touch with his own back six.

It worked well. While the football wasn’t always of a flowing variety, there were some neat combinations.

At one point in the first half, a few minutes after the two fullbacks combined for a wonderfully executed goal, born from a high-press, the Socceroos strung an amazing 37 passes. Wow.

Ok, it didn’t get them anywhere in that particular attack, but when you saw the Uzbeks spent after 70 minutes, you just knew Verbeek’s men had done the job.

Ok, Verbeek didn’t get his second goal - “We were waiting for the two-zero,” he said later - but the Roos never really looked like conceding. There was time for one last piece of Verbeek-speak; “I think the whole team made a great performance.”

Indeed they did Pim, indeed they did. It’s early days, and happy days, but fingers crossed the Socceroos don’t think too far ahead. Neill was quoted after the match saying they needed just four more wins to get to South Africa, but, while it’s tempting, for now the focus should be only on Qatar and Brisbane.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good performance and i am glad you counted the 37 passes Tony, cos i lost count! But after seeing that passage of play it was obvious we were totally in control. Valeri has been the highlight over the last 12 months i think. He has developed into quite a player. And Chipperfield was brilliant.

Any idea why Kennedy was left out though, did he also suffer from stomach bug? Because i would like to see him starting EVERY time.

Peter Kandy.

Fri. Sep. 12, 10:22:00 am AEST  
Anonymous Guido said...

Reading the Melbourne Victory Forum everyone had very bad things to say about Holman. Is he really that bad?

Fri. Sep. 12, 12:40:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous sev said...

The socceroos are looking good. However, I'm wondering what will happen concerning the situation with the Iraq (vs Qatar) CAS appeal - 442 site reports a decision might take a few weeks...

So what happens if the CAS decides that Iraq will replace Qatar? Qatar have already played 2 games; what happens to all the points/cards/money-spent?? Has something like this ever happened before?

Sat. Sep. 13, 01:05:00 am AEST  
Blogger pippinu said...

Guido

Holman is making a name for himself as a bit of a workhorse, one who can run all day and can harry defenders. That's not a bad list of attributes in a tough away fixture, but the truth is that he is not really a noted goal scorer, and, to be honest, at times his first touch is absolutely atrocious.

In a 4-2-3-1 set up, if all of Bresh, Kewell and Cahill are available, it's difficult to see Holman getting a start.

Mon. Sep. 15, 11:04:00 am AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

..i am glad you counted the 37 passes Tony, cos i lost count!...

Pete, gotta thank the IQ for that one.

...Valeri has been the highlight over the last 12 months i think. He has developed into quite a player. And Chipperfield was brilliant....

Agree and agree.

...Any idea why Kennedy was left out though, did he also suffer from stomach bug? Because i would like to see him starting EVERY time....

The tactics were to catch the Uzbeks centre backs on the ground, play the counter, and use the pace of the front quartet. Hard to argue that Pim got this one wrong.

...Is he really that bad?...

Guido, I dont think he's that bad, just not the most polished player we've got. On the counter, with space, he's got a role to play. A definite starter? not so sure.

Sev, I was shocked Qatar were allowed to march on after the emerson issue, but then, with bin hamman as afc pres, i wasnt so shocked.

Pippinu, hard to disagree with any of that.

Mon. Sep. 15, 10:09:00 pm AEST  

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