Thursday, 19 June 2014

World Cup Observations 4: Another upset, a near-upset and why the scoreline of 3-2 is slightly misleading for Australia

Team
PldWDLGFGAGDPts
 Netherlands220083+56
 Chile220051+46
 Australia200236−30
 Spain200217−60

Yesterday evening I posted my false hope that, when I woke up for the NED-AUS match at 2am, I would witness Australia fluking a victory over the Dutch.

http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/2014-fifa-world-cup-australias-tim-cahill-responds/story?id=24193958

Well, suffice to say, it was mighty close to happening. What a surprising match!!

In particular, that volley by Tim Cahill was absolutely delicious and is something that will be spoken about by generations of Australians to come. The way he thumped that ball in, as an immediate response to Robben scoring, is something I'll never forget. He certainly stepped outside his stereotype of being chiefly a header of the ball.

However, despite the seemingly closely-contested scoreline, I must say something that not everyone may like to hear about this team and that is this: Subject to improvements by the Socceroos, I don't express the same optimism that others feel about our chances at future World Cups. Without meaning to sound negative (like a party pooper) and without detracting from our excellent positives, these are my primary concerns about the team:

  • Whilst we created many opportunities to score, and looked dangerous dribbling the ball forward (especially with the pace of our midfield - a great improvement), once Tim Cahill retires, we do not have any clinical finishers in the last third. This was epitomised when Leckie gave up the glorious opportunity to send Australia forward 3-2 by chesting the ball straight to the goalkeeper as well as Bresciano's chance (albeit a difficult one) to score. Perhaps Adam Taggart will be given a chance to prove himself in the final match against Spain. Although unlikely, I hope someone scores a convincing goal against Spain so as to give our younger forwards/midfielders some confidence with their finishing ability.
  • Mathew Ryan has received numerous plaudits and praises for his goalkeeping ability. In particular he won the Goalkeeper of the Year Award in the 2013/2014 Belgian Pro League. Unfortunately he let in what should have been a standard save for a decent goalkeeper. That cost us the draw. You cannot afford to make mistakes like that at this level, and I sincerely hope he learns from it. I also question his positioning and footwork (as well as his dribbling decisions when attackers get close to him), and am not sure whether he is as good as everyone says he is. He may be good at club level, but we've all heard that story before...
  • Our defence was quite horrible - we gave the Dutch too much space when they entered our third. They converted their chances. You cannot expect to win matches with that kind of defence - even against lesser teams. What's the point of scoring if you're only going to give it away cheaply?
(It will also be noted that the penalty awarded to us was a bit soft -- we were essentially gifted a free goal and the score should probably have been 3-1, which obviously doesn't look as good. What I'm trying to say is that we were lucky to receive that penalty, because, from what I've said above, it's unlikely we would have been able to finish off any attacking moves in the box - unless Cahill was behind it)

With these three points in mind, I think we will struggle (but not necessarily fail) to qualify for the next World Cup unless something changes. However, the most pertinent point that must be fixed is that we need one or two reliable goalscorers who can finish attacking moves. If this is repaired, then I think we can do fairly well - defence is something that can be learnt with match experience, especially given our young team.

Of course, this is not to be completely scathing of the Socceroos - it is more constructive criticism than anything else. I believe someone else can step up to the challenge, and with Robbie Kruse back in the team later on this year, we may well have part of the problem fixed up. Let us see how we perform at the 2015 Asian Cup first.

Our positives were this: We created loads of opportunities, we were fast, fit and physically strong and we never said die from the get go (even when we conceded against both Chile and the Netherlands). Let's keep building on these positives whilst improving on our negatives.

Other news
  • I really cannot believe that Spain has been eliminated from the competition. I just can't. It's essentially what happened to Italy in 2010, after they won the World Cup in 2006, except Spain probably will beat Australia to 3rd place. Note that even the Kiwis finished above Italy in that famous Group F, having drawn all of their matches - thus being the only unbeaten team at the World Cup Finals that year (which is what Switzerland did in 2006, going out on penalties to Ukraine in the Round of 16). I didn't watch the full match between Spain and Chile but my goodness: in terms of their overall ability in the last two matches, aside from the dubiously awarded penalty, I struggle to find a reason why they were unable to score properly against Chile or the Netherlands. Was it simply complacency coupled with a sudden lack of confidence when they realised they were behind? The Spanish media must be in an uproar
Group F 2010 FIFA World Cup:
Team
PldWDLGFGAGDPts
 Paraguay312031+25
 Slovakia311145−14
 New Zealand30302203
 Italy302145−12
See also: Group A 2002 FIFA World Cup, where reigning champions France got kicked out of the group
Team
PldWDLGFGAGDPts
 Denmark321052+37
 Senegal312054+15
 Uruguay302145−12
 France301203−31

Cameroon may have nothing to play for, but it could make a difference to Group A...
Team
PldWDLGFGAGDPts
 Brazil211031+24
 Mexico211010+14
 Croatia210153+23
 Cameroon200205−50
  • Didn't get to see the full Croatia-Cameroon match. I noticed that Cameroon looked a bit demoralised at half-time (hands on hips, bad body language), so figured they must be losing badly. I was wondering why Croatia bothered scoring so many goals, given that, they still needed a win against Mexico to be sure of qualification. If Mexico draws with them in their last match they will still fail to qualify obviously (5 vs 3 points). However, it occurred to me that, if Cameroon manage to fluke a victory over Brazil, and Mexico drew with Croatia, Brazil would lose out to Croatia on goal difference. But that seems to be an unlikely scenario??! (Given what has happened in recent matches, I won't say it's impossible)
  • My friend Kevin told me that Assou-Ekotto headbutted his own team mate!!! I suppose that's not surprising given Alex Song's red-card-worthy elbow..


I really look forward to the Mexico-Croatia match - it will be a cracker. Uruguay-England should also be interesting.

Cheers,

Andre Lim


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