Monday 19 June 2017

Confederations Cup 2017

The Socceroos are back on the international stage with their first match against a second/third string Germany in the Confederations Cup at 1am, early Tuesday morning.

Ange Postecoglou and the squad have come under considerable scrutiny in recent months as a result of the team's shaky performances and absence of defensive solidarity in recent World Cup Qualifiers.

While the victory against Saudi Arabia was an important stepping stone, the team's inability to secure a 2-goal margin due to its leaky defence could prove to be decisive, but we will have a better idea in late August.

Some of the specific problems that have been raised by Roos fans include:
  1. Postecoglou's experimentation with an unfamiliar back 3 system in critical must-win games - a formation that the players are arguably not comfortable with given the manner in which the team has conceded goals;
  2. The squad not having the right personnel or talent to adopt the system that Ange wants the Socceroos to play; and
  3. Australia's recent tendency of over-emphasising offence at the expense of sloppy ball control, and possession, coupled with a flimsy defence and cheap turnovers.
Of course, a bit of perspective is important.

An optimist might say that the Socceroos are undefeated, with their aim of qualification still firmly in their control. The optimist would also point to the fact that hiccups are inevitable, and necessary, if change is to come about.

Ange Postecoglou would almost certainly side with the optimist, as he has made it clear that the Socceroos need to be more ambitious than just qualifying for the World Cup. He has used this as an excuse of sorts to justify the teething problems mentioned above. This has resulted in him being quite scathing of the media and any questions directed towards his team and management.
A realist on the other hand might suggest that we have drawn far too many games -- this has made the qualification route more difficult than it should be. For example, a win instead of a draw against either Thailand or Iraq would have put the Socceroos in a rather comfortable position compared to what we face right now. Now they need to go to Saitama and squeeze at least a draw out of Japan.

In that context, the Confederations Cup could be a boon for a number of reasons:
  1. The competition could expose the fragility of the Australian defence before the important matches against Japan and Thailand - this would, in turn, hopefully set into motion proper change;
  2. If the Australians come away with a point or a win (the latter more unlikely), this would instill some confidence in the team; and
  3. Players who do not get a lot of club game time, such as Robbie Kruse, could be played back into form in this competition.
On the flipside, the Confederations Cup could also be a bad thing for the Socceroos:
  1. Injuries to key players for a tournament that pales in insignificance to the World Cup would be a disaster and absolutely devastating to our World Cup qualification chances;
  2. A serious loss of confidence after thrashings inflicted on us by other teams could be on the cards;
  3. A lack of belief in the current formation and confusion as to what other formations should be used if results do not go our way is possible as well;
  4. Is it also conceivable that we may obtain a false sense of confidence (if we get any kind of points in this group) as we are playing in a tournament we are not expected to win? Contrast this to the World Cup Qualifiers where there is real pressure -- but winning is better than not winning of course.
I expect to see Germany and Chile rack up comfortable victories, say 2-0 and 3-0 respectively, however I would not be surprised to see the scoreline double beyond that if we are not careful. I am also eagerly looking forward to Cameroon vs Australia which may prove to be competitive.

Whatever happens, I hope that it will somehow prepare us very well for the qualifier against Japan on 31 August 2017.

Andre Lim

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