Pass marks, even minus the sparks
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.