Friday, January 30, 2009

Pass marks, even minus the sparks

Asian Cup qualifier wrap, Indonesia 0 - Socceroos 0

WEDNESDAY night's scrappy draw in Jakarta was hardly the most pleasing on the eye, but as far as an exercise in getting a job done, a means towards an end, it was satisfactory, and perhaps a touch better than that.

Ultimately the objective is a spot in Qatar 2011, and for Pim Verbeek and the powers that be, in the midst of a far more important world cup campaign, this Asian cup campaign provides an ideal opportunity to gauge how the crop of A-League players, Australia's third or fourth team, are developing and how they handle the mental rigours of an international campaign.

As such, it's an early tick, with the players responding to the occasion, handling the pressure and competing well enough to earn a valuable away point.

Not a pretty job, but a job nonetheless.

Given the short turnaround time, and the lack of opportunity for the squad and starting 11 to find the same page, Verbeek went down the safe route, both in terms of squad selection and team make-up.

Verbeek, a seasoned Asian campaigner, familiar with the potential for a pit-fall or two, would have no doubt reasoned that the intimidating atmosphere and the conditions required a few level heads.

As such, he went for a conservative, experienced line-up, even if it was raw at this level. In a squad of 20, Verbeek went with the veterans, the likes of Pondeljak, Allsopp, Heffernan and Matt Thompson chosen in the most contentious spots ahead of the likes of Celeski, Simon, Elrich, Cole and Zullo.

The youth would be kept for later.

In truth, it was only when Celeski and Simon came on late that the Socceroos started to show any kind of fluidity in the front third, and there may have been a case for both of these guys starting.

But Verbeek went down the safe route, and while both Pondeljak and Allsopp were solid without being spectacular, Verbeek will reason that they did a job.

He may well have had a point, with the youngest starter, Jamieson, looking at times the most uncertain. For a player seemingly with a very bright future in the national team, it is a very valuable early lesson.

Indeed, with Heffernan struggling in the unfamiliar left midfield role (strange that Verbeek played him there given his pre-match comments that no-one would be played out of position), Australia's left side looked short on combination. Heffernan didn't know whether to face the goal, or play with his back to it.

With Indonesia defending deep, in truth there was little success on either flank for the Socceroos. Matt Thompson tried to get around Pondeljak down the right, but kept running into cul-de-sac's.

Indonesia's tactics meant there was no room for Allsopp and Archie Thompson in behind (take note Aurelio Vidmar!)

Perhaps Verbeek had no idea the hosts would be defending so deep. Otherwise, it would have been more obvious to play the more physical Simon alongside Archie Thompson, thus allowing the Socceroos to go longer, occasionally.

As it was, both Thompson and Allsopp had to keep dropping deep for the ball, only adding to the congested midfield.

With neither central midfielder - McKay or Reid - breaking forward, and Pondeljak, Matt Thompson, Heffernan and Jamieson failing to penetrate on the flanks, it was a static formation, offering little of the creativity required to break the well organised Indonesians, superbly marshalled by Charis Yulianto and Maman Abdurahman.

Indeed, the central defensive players were the best for both sides.

Moore and Vargas were bricks at the back, and but for the odd bit of Indonesian penetration down the flanks, the Socceroos defensive formation worked.

Given the short preparation, and the players at Verbeek's disposal, this was a successful exercise, definitely one the manager can build on over the next five Asian Cup games.


Anonymous hoodooguru said...

Given we were always going to struggle for opportunities, I thought that perhaps Shannon Cole could have started to give us a few more dead-ball options. Our delivery at free kicks and corners was fairly ordinary.

I suppose that a Jamieson/Cole flank would be rather inexperienced, but Cole couldn't have done any worse than Heffernan.

Fri. Jan. 30, 02:19:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

...Cole couldn't have done any worse than Heffernan...

Too true.

Heffernan was always the strangest one for me hoodooguru.

I didnt mind Thompson at right back, he's adaptable enough to player in most positions.

Fri. Jan. 30, 02:28:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger Con Stamocostas said...

Perhaps Heffernan was used to block the right side of the Indonesian attack.
Heffernan's choice was a stange one he has limited football due to his broken leg, he doesn't look as fit and sharp as he used to, he also seems to have lost some speed.

I think Musialik would have been a better choice than Mckay.

Qualifying for the Asian cup with the A-League players is going to be no stroll in the park.

Been reading you stuff for a few years Tony, always quality.

Sat. Jan. 31, 12:57:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Hi Con, thanks for your interest in trba over the years and for your comment today.

Re Heffernan, I mentioned in my comments on a recent blog that I felt Verbeek was basically rewarding him for his previous good work before the broken leg...on current form, you simply couldnt have him.

As you would know from having read trba over the years, I'm a massive Musialik fan and see him as having a very bright future in the green and gold, but I admit to disappointment in his first season at Sydney, and on that form, I just couldnt have him starting in that game.

Long term, he has the ability to eat players like Mckay and Reid, and have a long green and gold career, but he must first start to own Sydney.

...Qualifying for the Asian cup with the A-League players is going to be no stroll in the park....

Too true Con, but I like them getting exposed to this stuff. It makes us a stronger football nation.

Sat. Jan. 31, 10:43:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger john said...

Hi Tony

What do you recon about Sergio Van Dijk saying he wants to play for Indonesia?

Sun. Feb. 01, 09:45:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Hi john, thanks for the comment, good to hear from you...

If van dijk wants to play for Indonesia, and Benny Dolo wants him, I reckon it would be a great fit...

Indonesia lack size, and van dijk provides that in an instant...I reckon he could be a nice little foli up front for the small but quick budi sudarsono.

willl watch closely

Wed. Feb. 04, 10:07:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Frederico said...

Squad for the return leg has just been named. If we can get a point in Brisbane, we don't deserve to be there.

Fri. Feb. 19, 05:59:00 pm AEDT  

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