Milligan the main man
The Socceroos have struggled to find the right man to fill the void left by Vince Grella's retirement. Step forward Mark Milligan.
Sometimes football isn-t about being fluid and sexy. Not every team can be a Barcelona or Spain, playing the beautiful game with beautiful players, but one thing every team needs is an enforcer, the man who does the hard yards but can also provide a high level of skill.
Traditionally the Socceroos have prided themselves on being physical - “hard” if you will - it-s not a talent other teams have enjoyed, but it has served them well in the last decade.
Qualifying campaigns for Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010 have partially been built upon that mantra of physicality and despite the public yearning for a prettier style of football to be played, the Socceroos can-t go away from a major strength, which is their physical strength.
Sasa Ognenovski-s towering frame aside there needs to be someone in the middle to play the tough guy and ever since Vince Grella retired the defensive midfield spot hasn-t quite been what it was.
Mile Jedinak has been tried in the role but what has become more evident, especially of late is that Mark Milligan might just be the man to fill the role.
As resolute as a hard-tackling defensive midfielder as Jedinak is, Milligan is showing he has more to offer the national team right now than the Crystal Palace man.
Just look at the performances they have given of late, the difference between Jedinak-s game against Oman and Milligan-s performances against both Japan and Jordan has been huge in terms of quality, with Milligan coming out on top.
Since joining Melbourne Victory Milligan has become a dominant and improved footballer, his rise - rapid.
His on-loan spell under Mehmet Durakovic and Jim Magilton was solid if unspectacular, but to be fair no one shone in what was a divided locker room back then, with an even more divided board and an unsure coaching situation.
Under Ange Postecoglou he has truly blossomed. An assured nature becoming evident in his play as he links the backfield with the front, playing the passing out from the back, counter-attacking role Kevin Muscat once revelled in, and in a large part it is this extra dimension that has seen him become a reliable and key member of the Qantas Socceroos squad as they look to grab that automatic spot in Brazil 2014.
In fact Milligan might just be our most important player.
Make no mistake, the Socceroos will be lucky to get out of their group in Brazil. The draw will assure that. The most likely scenario is we will come up against a team from South America or Africa, one from Europe and a North American side that we will simply have no option but to beat.
As enjoyable as it was to kick the stuffing out of Jordan in Melbourne, it was Jordan, the 75th-ranked team in international football, they are a minnow, and anyone who thinks we are going to out four goals on a truly world-class side is mistaken.
The result of this scenario is that we-re going to have to scrap for points and attack on the counter.
While a lot can happen in a year, and it-s a year to the day Brazil 2014 kicks off by the way, it-s very likely that while they will continue to improve, the likes of Tom Rogic, Tommy Oar and Robbie Kruse still won-t be world-beaters, they will be very good attackers, leaving it once again to the defenders and the defensive midfielders to hold things together.
For so long this was Vincenzo Grella-s role in the national side, played with aplomb and aggression; Milligan lacks the former-s bite but his discipline, simplicity and growing partnership with Bresciano should make him an automatic starter.
He may not have graced the Serie A or the EPL with his presence but what Australia will get from Mark Milligan is 100 per cent in every challenge and a ball player who can unlock almost every midfield he comes up against, he might just be our most important player in Brazil and was good enough to recently attract a $2 million transfer from UAE club Baniyas and has now been linked to QPR and an as yet un-named Bundesliga club.
Should the Socceroos indeed qualify expect Milligan to be there and expect his role to be the one that defines whether the team is ultimately successful or not.
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