Farina's Forum - Mission Accomplished

Mission accomplished. It has been an exhausting two and a half weeks, but we have achieved the first goal of our 2006 World Cup campaign and that was basically getting to the Play-off stage.

Mission accomplished. It has been an exhausting two and a half weeks, but we have achieved the first goal of our 2006 World Cup campaign and that was basically getting to the Play-off stage.   Unfortunately for a number of the players, national team staff and myself that were part of the OFC Nations Cup in Adelaide, there is only a few days rest, as we now look towards the 2004 Olympic Games Football tournament in Greece.   But that is life as a professional footballer, or for that matter a professional coach, and I am greatly looking forward to the next two months as we lead up to the games.   It has only been a couple of weeks since my last Forum (following Turkey matches), but a lot has happened in that time.

While I have already talked about our performances in the matches against Turkey, I think in the end it just goes to show how vital those two games were.   As I said before it-s not everyday you get the opportunity to play sides of this calibre.

Overall I was pretty pleased with the progression we made in those two matches and that was the important thing, especially leading into a major tournament.   New Zealand on the other hand had no preparation and it showed. The team lost two games throughout the tournament and they failed to qualify for the next stage.   The other good thing that came out of the Turkey games, was it reinforced to me and everyone involved in soccer that we can compete when we are up against the best teams in the world, even when we are not at full strength. The guys that came in did a fantastic job for us.   Going into the OFC Nations Cup, I was always confident that we could progress, especially if we got over New Zealand in the first match.   However it was always going to be tough, especially when you have players coming off the back of long seasons with their clubs in Europe and then expecting them to come back here and play two games against Turkey, leading into a five-game in nine-days tournament scenario. If you asked most teams around the world to play in something like that, they would just laugh.   It was a big ask to go through it and win comfortably, so I was pleased with the players commitment.

The only hiccup, if you like, was the last game against the Solomons where we really had nothing to play for, as we had already wrapped the tournament up and I think mentally we were a bit off, especially in the first half.

I think we came out in the second half and were much more focused and went 2-1 up. But the Solomons deserve credit as well as they fought hard and got back for the draw.

In general I was very pleased and I said above - mission accomplished. We went out to win the tournament and finish first, which we did, so I very pleased to be going through to the next stage.   It-s a major shock not to be playing New Zealand in the play-offs but again it just reinforces the key of preparation.

All of the island nations came into Adelaide on the back of the Stage 1 tournament, where they played four games in eight days. This got them to a level of fitness and team understanding that put them in good stead for the tournament in Adelaide.   I think the island countries benefited from a good preparation and I think good organisation on all fronts.

I thought the Solomons, Fiji and Vanuatu were very well coached, prepared and they did well, while Tahiti were the team that disappointed me most. The outcome of the tournament or placings was generally a fair reflection to how it went. Solomons to me were the second best team.   The performance of the island nations was a real highlight of the tournament and it-s imperative I think for the region that they continue to improve.   I have always maintained, as Australia continues to progress, we should be pulling some of those teams with us. As we improve, the island countries have to be ambitious enough to say, we might not be able to keep up with them, but we-ll be able to move forward and get a bit closer. At the moment that seems to be the case and hopefully that will continue.   As far as the Nations Cup went, I was generally pleased with how things went but especially happy with the levels of concentration and professionalism of the players.

After we beat New Zealand in the first game, it was hard to get the players in the right frame of mind for each game, because they were expected win each game by big scores. I thought the team really held strong throughout the tournament and the performances from the likes of Vince Grella, Tim Cahill (pictured above), Tony Vidmar, who I thought was outstanding throughout the whole period we were in camp.

Max Vieri made a big impact during the Turkey games, although I thought he dropped off a bit during the tournament in Adelaide, but it was pleasing none-the-less that he-s come in and can compete at that high level.   Our next challenge is against the Solomon Islands and not for one minute do I think it will be easy for us. It will be difficult.   For a start, the two games will be in October, there will be high humidity, high temperatures and our boys will be coming from October in Europe, which is quite cool. They will have a full house over there and they are talking it up over there of 20-30,000 fans at the game.   They have shown they can compete and we-ve just got to make sure that we are focused on what we are trying to achieve and that is to get through to the Confederations Cup and the next phase of World Cup qualifying.   I will be naming our strongest possible squad with the only exception being injuries. We are talking about qualification for a major tournament, which is very important in our preparation, so nothing will be left to chance. I am confident with our squad we-ll be able to progress.   During the Nations Cup tournament I was able to blood a few of the Qantas Under 23-s that are likely to feature at the Athens Olympics.   Overall I thought they did very well, except perhaps in the final game. I thought Ahmad Elrich had a great impact whenever he came on.   It was good to keep the boys ticking over because it-s a big couple of months coming up for them and we-ve got to make sure they are physically and mentally well prepared for the Olympic Games.   It was good to have them in camp with the national team and obviously there was a number of those involved with the squad that was participating in the tournament.   Looking ahead to the Olympics, we face a tough group, but there are no easy groups there. We are playing the South American Champions in Argentina, Tunisia, who won arguably the toughest of the four African qualifying groups and the European runners-up Serbia & Montenegro.   We-ve already played Tunisia last month where we lost 1-0, but at least we-ve got an indication of what sort of opposition they are.

It will be interesting and I think it will come down to us again and how prepared we are and we are up for the three games initially.   So it-s full steam ahead and we-re heading off next week for Switzerland and back for 10 days at the beginning of July, before completing final preparations in Europe in the month leading up to the games.   It-s set to be an exciting time over the next four months or so for our National teams.   I look forward to speaking to you again, as we get closer to the Olympics.      Keep kicking goals

Frank Farina