A big night in Brisbane
Holger Osieck will play it down. The players will say there’s no pressure. But make no mistake, there is a lot riding on the Qantas Socceroos' game against Japan tonight.
Holger Osieck will play it down. The players will say there-s no pressure. But make no mistake, there is a lot riding on the Qantas Socceroos' game against Japan tonight.
It seems somehow counter-intuitive that a game this early in the group qualifying campaign should mean so much but recent results have quickly piled the pressure on Australia, and put the spotlight firmly on the Qantas Socceroos- age and ability.
The team-s form to-date has been good, if not brilliant. As always, they-ve dispatched the smaller teams well, turning in some classy performances - but Holger Oseick-s side have struggled to find their best against the best.
The recent friendly loss to Denmark was generally seen to be more of a foundation for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers but Australia-s lack of cutting edge in that game left many questioning if the current squad still has what it takes.
Australia were unusually quiet against the Danes and made little impact in an attacking sense. They defended stoutly, as always, but individual errors crept in at the back, without the individual brilliance at the other end to balance them out.
The result in Muscat was what most people through it would be - a hard-fought point. Australia rarely dominate playing in the Middle East.
But it was more the parity of the two teams that reinforced the concerns.
We fancy ourselves as “heavyweights” in Asia but Oman looked to have more threat and were able to dominate the game, if only for a short spell, that the Qantas Socceroos never quite managed.
And now we face an in-form and on-fire Japanese side in our own backyard. Our recent rivalry with Japan, in tandem with their own excellent results, have turned this fixture into a game that carries great significance.
Win, and Australia will be within two points of the Group B leaders, with a game in hand. Draw, and the best we can get is third place. But lose, and Australia will already be eight points behind.
The Qantas Socceroos- have not inspired confidence of late and as such, a pall of negativity has descended with many expecting a Japanese victory.
Captain Lucas Neill has already come out to say he-s happy with the underdog status, as it-s a tag that more often than not spurs Australia on to prove that the underdog still has a bite.
So a victory in Brisbane will put things right and the questions lingering over the squad-s big-game ability will be dispelled.
But a loss will turn up the heat on Holger Osieck and a group of players who rarely get very far without someone in the media mentioning their age.
As one journalist pointed out, the Qantas Socceroos team that faced Oman had an average age of 31 years and 112 days - the fourth-oldest Australian team ever.
That and the differing qualities of a squad drawn from all kinds of leagues across the globe, and still two years away from Brazil will be endlessly debated until qualification.
For now, let-s put the doubts aside, pull on the green-and-gold, and get loud. Tomorrow we can decide whether what we were shouting about was good enough.