Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Australia 3-0 Oman: HT Impressions

Australia produced a fluid and fast-paced performance to clinch a win against Oman. Oman it must be said, did not collapse under pressure as the Malaysians did. Paul le Guen's side was able to generally keep its defensive shape, and launched sporadic counter-attacks, but the Socceroos were simply superior. Much credit has to go to Holger Osieck for his introduction of the most fluid football to be produced by the Green and Gold in some time. Some of the media have unfairly portrayed last night's XI as a 'second string' which is insulting to the players, and to the manager; the fact that he has successfully moulded a side no longer dependent on Tim Cahill, Mark Schwarzer, Brett Emerton and Harry Kewell is a massive acheivement, considering that none of the Young Guard play in the English Premier League, which for so long, had a strong contingent from the Antipodes. 

PM said it after the Malaysian match, and we'll say it again here; using Wilkshire in advance of Williams on the right is a piece of genius in man-management, allowing the older, more experienced player to provide a shield for the younger right-back. PM theorised that Holger might invert one of the left-wingers, perhaps Brosque, but using Wilkshire, a very similar player to Emerton, allows Australia to retain a familiar shape and system.

Every player was on their game last night. Spiranovic was reintroduced into the back-line, and it seems Osieck has again demonstrated a remarkably ability to manage the abilities in his squad; using Jedinak, a robust and physical presence, in advance of Spiranovic in defensive midfield, allows the latter to fully employ his passing reportoire. His range of passing is a significant advantage over Ognenovski.

Zullo was initially subdued in the first half, but Matt McKay compensated, with his runs from left. Against Oman he performed a half-and-half role, shuttling between drifting central and as an orthodox wide midfielder; in the latter role, he successfully assisted Holman.

Captain Fantastic was once again fantastic; it is a travesty that some time ago Australians were calling for the sacking of our captain. Neill's distribution out of the backline, and his compensation for Williams runs made Australia's right flank organic in attack and solid in defence. The first goal was a product of this; Neill drifted into the rightback area, Williams was advanced past the centre circle, Williams crossed, Oman headed away to McKay who slotted in a low cross for Holman to slide onto at the far post.

Kennedy has been criticised by PM in the past; in fact we told him to "fucking run about a bit" in homage to Harry Redknapp's famous instruction. While we still hold firm to our belief that Harry Kewell, fit and ready, is a superior leader of the line, he is facing significant competition to break back into the side from Josh. His link-up play was superb, dropping deep and allowing Holman to play-off his physical presence.

Holman; what can we say? This is the man who is making Tim Cahill look unnecessary to the Socceroos. His mobility, his intelligence, his pre-emptive interceptions, linking with McKay and Wilkshire; this was the performance of as close to a modern playmaker as Australia are going to get, and it is rather fitting that an Aussie playmaker's style can be categorised as determined, cunning and physical rather than overtly stylish.

Player rankings are going to be redundant in this match; there wasn't a single Australian who had an off-game, or whose excellence sufficiently distinguished themselves from their country-men. Sufficice it to say, Holman, Kennedy, McKay, Neill, Spiranovic were excellent, while Valeri, Jedinak, Zullo, Federici, Wilkshire and Williams were great.

The difference between Australian players (and South Korean and Japansese) from the rest of Asia is professionalism. All 3 countries, at optimum strength and condition, are going to dominate play (though not necessarily win). Our players compete and excel regularly at higher levels of competition. It could be seen last night. The speed of transition was the crucial difference; Australia were able to switch between offence and defence rapidly. Oman wasted precious time setting up an attack after seizing possession; by the time their attack started, Australia were reformed in two banks of four. The Socceroos were also superior in their pressing, which was coordinated - we always had 1 of the advanced four harrying the defenders; when Oman took the ball into midfield, we had 2 or 3 players pressing the possessor.

There is unlikely to be a full match report, given Australia's dominance in the 1st half, and the eventual scoreline. It should be noted that Jedinak's last-gasp goal was the first scored from a set-piece in many months; how far we have come.


Anonymous said...

I personally thought the second half showed more flair than the first..and was somewhat surprised that Oman didn't try to nullify neill to williams to wilshire play which was a constant during that first 45...the passing was great to see and its heartening to see the team progress in such an attractive fashion

Pass and Move said...

Thanks for the comment Greg

Yeah skipped the 2nd half, needed sleep. I'll take your word on it.

A high press isn't a silver bullet; if you go to pressurise your opponent, you need your midfielders and defenders to do likewise, which will drag your whole team forward into a high line. Le Guen wanted to guard the area in front of his box, to stop Australia getting in behind.

That's the mistake Pim Verbeek made against the Germans. He wanted Cahill, Garcia and the midfield to press, but playing a high line was suicidal with Neill and Moore, who are much slower than Ozil and Klose. That's without talking about the numerical disadvantage in midfield.

Cheers Greg, tell your friends about PM