Saturday, 3 September 2011

Australia 2-1 Thailand: Match Report Pt. 1

Australian selection errors give chance to Thailand

This was a very disappointing game for the Socceroos. Holger committed serious errors with his team selection and tactics. In many ways, this was a regressive performance which ran contrary to the side's progress under Osieck.
The strategy that Australia relied on for the majority of the game was repetitive, predictable and hopeful crosses, deep from the right flank. It was disheartening, especially as Australia had demonstrated its ability to implement a mobile and incisive short-passing game against a more formidable Wales.

Australia's System:
Holger discarded his 4-4-2/4-3-3 hybrid for a static and conventional 4-4-2, with notable player selection errors. Cahill and Kennedy waited high up the pitch for service instead of dropping deep or drifting wide. Wilkshire and Emerton looked to inter-change and cross the ball deep from the right flank. Kilkenny and Valeri acted as a double pivot in central mid-field, switching sides and taking it in turns to offer an option to the CBs and surge into the box. Neill and Spiranovic were paired at the back, with Spiranovic more mobile. The biggest mistakes in terms of selection were on the left flank. Holman, being a right-sided central attacker, drifted inwards, and more or less ignored the left side. McKay, a creative passer, was played out of position at left-back, where his tendency to drift inward and play beyond the half-way line to attempt to create exposed the Australian defence.

The selection errors committed by Holger were very surprising to PM, especially since Holger talked publicly about the capability of his good friend and counterpart, Schaffer, and took the time to personally scout Thailand.

Thailand’s System:
Thailand set out in a 4-5-1 formation, with a defensive double pivot. For the majority of the game, the Thai back-four were camped on their 6-yard box, while their central mid-fielders were camped on their 18-yard line.
They were also missing their 1st choice keeper and captain and were forced to re-call a 34 year old defender, who had retired from international football 2 years previously. Fortunately for Thailand, he performed very well, tightly marking Kennedy. Kennedy made his job easy for him, staying in the box and waiting for service, instead of dropping deep or pulling wide to drag defenders out of position and create space for his team mates to exploit.

Thailand dealt with Australia's aerial dominance smartly. Their defenders marked tightly, without over-committing players to an aerial contest they would surely lose. Thailand conceded the first touch from the Australian crosses, but surrounded the knock-down with players. They also played the few corners they won short, obfuscating the risk of an Australian counter-attack.

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