Farina Praises Team After Draw With Venezuela

Frank Farina had nothing but praise for his team’s gallant performance as the Socceroos earned a honourable 1-1 draw with Venezuela in Caracas this morning.

Frank Farina had nothing but praise for his team-s gallant performance as the Socceroos earned a honourable 1-1 draw with Venezuela in Caracas this morning.  Farina-s men had Paul Agostino (pictured right) to thank for their early lead, before surrendering victory in the final minutes courtesy of a Juan Arango volley.  In what has been a trying week for Farina and his troops, the stellar performance shown today in Caracas will boost team morale no end, especially given the fact that the Socceroos were missing several key players.  “As I mentioned I would have signed for that result before the game,” said a rather disappointed Farina after the game. “But when you lead for so long and to be fair we should have made it 2-0 through David Zdrilic, so we were a little bit disappointed in the end.”

“Again it was a good result and I was very, very happy and proud of the way the boys played.”   Having said that, the Australians were left heartbroken after Vinotinto danger man Arango, a constant menace to the Australian defence, popped up at the far post to slam home a well weighted cross from substitute Hector Gonzalez.  The one all draw was just the second time Venezuela have dropped points at home since August 2002 and was the first time in history the Socceroos had left South America, playing against South American opposition, with something other than a loss.  Having earlier stated that a draw was a most acceptable result, Farina-s charges were clinical in the first half, rarely allowing the home side a sniff at goal.  Farina-s more conservative approach was seemingly impenetrable in the opening forty five, with new skipper Craig Moore and Tony Popovic marshalling the experienced back line well.  Agostino-s opener on 18 minutes came about after Marco Bresciano-s effort from distance deflected out for a corner.  From the resulting kick, Stan Lazaridis picked out Aberdeen striker David Zdrilic at the far post, who-s header hit the post and came back out into the path of Agostino, and the German-based striker made no mistake to give the visitors the lead.  The Socceroos suffered a blow midway through the half when Birmingham City flanker Stan Lazaridis limped off injured, paving the way for Parramatta Power midfielder Ahmad Elrich to make his international debut.   On first indications, it looks as though Lazaridis has a grade one tear of his hamstring and could be sidelined for roughly two weeks.   “I feel very sorry for Stan,” Farina said. “He has obviously got a bit of a problem with his hamstring and I think it is the first time since he has been travelling away with the team that he has gone back with an injury.”

“I said to Stan if there is any way we can help out with the club, we-re glad to do it.”  But like his Power team mate Simon Colosimo, who Farina said was one of the best players on the park, Elrich rose to the occasion to put in a thorough and polished performance worthy of the green and gold.  With the exception of Arango, the Venezuelan-s rarely troubled Australia for most of the match and save for the final seconds, Mark Schwarzer was seldom tested.  Even after making four changes at half time, the Vinotinto struggled to break down the defensive wall of the Australian-s.  The home side suffered a setback in the 72nd minute when skipper Jose Manuel Rey was sent off for a second bookable offence.  Shortly after the send-off, Zdrilic should have secured the win for the Socceroos when presented with a close range header from a flicked on corner, but he failed to get a good touch and the ball went wide.   “If that chance had gone in, in the second half to make it 2-0 then it was game over,” Farina said frustratingly.

With ten men, the Vinotinto continued to pressure the Socceroo defence and in the 92nd minute, the pressure finally tolled.  Arango-s equaliser was the first real shot from inside the 18 yard box all game for the hosts and predictably, the home fans were rapturous following the goal.  Having been so close to a famous victory, Farina will leave Caracas disappointed in some respects, but also thrilled at the performance of his NSL recruits Colosimo and Elrich.  Colosimo in particular oozed poise and class on the ball, a decent effort considering the diabolical state of the Estadio Olimpico pitch.  Bresciano was again outstanding for Australia and Zdrilic performed exceptionally in his first match with the Socceroos since 2001.  Farina lauded Bresciano performance even making a bold prediction with regards his future with the national team.   “I believe will go on to be one of the greats. In terms of dead-ball situations I suppose he is Australia-s David Beckham. He-s quite a wonderful strike on him whether it be from corners or set pieces.   “Hopefully I am not putting the mocker on him, he-s going to somebody that is going to go a long way.”  Considering all that has happened in the past week with the off-field distractions, Farina said the game was a very good exercise.   “Out of times like this, you can get a lot of positives. You mentioned Simon Colosimo, I thought he was outstanding; the likes of David Zdrilic, who got through a mountain of work and when you come into places like this, those sorts of players you do need.   “There were a lot of real positives that came out of this game.  “The learning curve in terms of how we approached it, what we tried, it sort of worked for us; came off. Apart from the players that got an opportunity, the report that we will be doing up on the game we-ll maybe using further on down the track, if and when November (2005) comes around.”  Asked how the players felt after the game, Farina used the example of Kevin Muscat when he came into the dressing room.   “I-ll tell a funny story, Kevin Muscat has walked into the dressing room first and he-s volleyed a bottle full of water half way across the room, because he was a bit upset about conceding a goal so late.   “I think that shows the sentiment of the team and they came in quite disappointed after leading for such a long period of the game. We just reminded them that it was a fantastic result and they played very well.”  The Socceroos now look forward to March 30, where they will clash with South Africa at Loftus Road, London in a match that truly accelerates Australia-s march to Germany 2006. MATCH STATISTICS Venezuela 1 (Juan Arango 92') Australia 1 (Paul Agostino 18') Australia line-up - Mark Schwarzer (gk); Kevin Muscat, Craig Moore (c), Tony Popovic, Lucas Neill; Mile Sterjovski (Steve Laybutt 92'), Simon Colosimo, Marco Bresciano, Stan Lazaridis (Ahmad Elrich 28'); David Zdrilic (Nick Carle 83'), Paul Agostino (Tony Vidmar 62') Cautions: Colosimo 19', Muscat 54', Neill 80' Referee: J Ruiz (Colombia)