The Socceroos learned an important lesson against South Africa. I just hope the message has hit home when they have their third successive crack at the World Cup.
My fear is that if we are naïve enough - or call it brave if you will - to try and beat the best in the world at their own game, we could be in serious trouble in Brazil.
There was hardly a Socceroo performance to really get the blood flowing against a South Africa side that was put together at late notice and played simply to fulfill their obligations.
In fairness to the lads in green and gold, they had clearly trained themselves into the ground to get the opportunity to make a point to coach Ange Postecoglou, but they were out of legs after 20 minutes.
The reality is that Ange would not have been looking for World Cup starters but was rather casting an eye over those outside the 15 or 16 players most likely to feature in Brazil.
Usually at international level, 70% of the squad picks itself. Australia’s problem is that during this transition period, Ange is both looking at the World Cup as well as the longer term future.
But can we, as a growing football nation, really afford to take our eyes off the ball? Can we afford to sell to the public something that won’t be available for another four years?
The game is on the rise and we need to keep it rolling for the joy riders, whose only football focus is during a World Cup. We qualified for the World Cup on merit and now we are there we must go out to win games - whatever it takes.
It’s a tough group but we must look at how we can get through it. The bottom line is that we will be under pressure but if we are to get a result or two we’ll have to score goals and we’ll have to finish games strongly.
With that in mind, it’s a no-brainer for Ange to have five forwards at his disposal even if he plays one up top. There is sure to come a time in games when the Socceroos will need more than one striker on the pitch to chase a result.
In order to go with five forwards, Ange will have to make some hard decisions on the midfielders he will keep in his final 23. Versatility will be key in that area. Matt McKay and Mark Milligan can play at the back or across midfield. As captain, Mile Jedinak has to play and it’s a matter of whether Ange goes for experience or youth alongside him.
A potential problem area is the absence of an obvious leader at the back. There’s no doubt the Socceroos have some quality at the back but I just don’t see a natural leader.
Luke Wilkshire has the experience but doesn’t play in a position to dictate, while the impact of losing Rhys Williams cannot be underestimated. Love him or not, Lucas Neill was huge at the back for the Socceroos and dictated the line very well in both presence and communication.
Obviously the line-up against South Africa will be very different for that first game against Chile. The likes of Jedinak and Matthew Spiranovic will make a big difference along with Mark Bresciano’s experience.
My fingers are crossed that the changes Ange makes between the ANZ Stadium on Monday and the Arena Pantanal on the morning of Saturday, June 14, will produce the desired result.
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