Osieck glimpses new direction
A win for Australia, a win for Holger Osieck, a win for common sense, but most importantly of all, a win for the Hyundai A-League. It was a champagne night in Hwaseong.
A win for the Qantas Socceroos, a win for Holger Osieck, a win for common sense, but most importantly of all, a win for the Hyundai A-League. It was a champagne night in Hwaseong, in every sense.
First things first. A turning point on the road to Rio? Could be. The last few minutes in Doha breathed new life into a faltering World Cup campaign.
Archie Thompson's last-gasp winner against Iraq certainly pumped up the Melbourne Victory veteran. Witness his post-match spray at the so-called critics. I wonder if Archie holds the same view now?
The clamour for rejuvenating an ageing list has been reaching a crescendo. The merits of doing so have been obvious, perhaps from the moment the "golden generation" just missed out on the Asian Cup trophy in early 2011.
It's taken a while, but it's finally starting to happen. After the building block laid in Doha, this win over the South Koreans has offered a launching pad.
With three of the final four World Cup qualifiers in home soil - starting with the match in March against Oman in Sydney - Osieck and his players can now plan with a priceless ingredient in their kitbag: confidence.
That confidence has come from youth, and exuberance. It's often the way. Youth can be measured in age, or experience. On both counts, Osieck took a plunge against the Koreans. It worked a treat.
A prime example is Michael Thwaite. Age, 29. Caps, six. Played out of position at left back, before moving into a holding midfield role in a second-half reshuffle. Thwaite had a blinder - "no look" passes and all. He seized the opportunity, and has certainly given Osieck something to think about.
Ryan McGowan is another. Age 23, Caps, one. He's been ready for a while now, and looked so assured in a right back role where the Qantas Socceroos lack specialists. Strong, mobile, adventurous. There's so much to like about his game. Osieck can't help but be impressed.
Six of the starters against the Koreans had just 29 caps between them. All four substitutes were making their debuts. Away from home, against a team who almost never lose at home, offered the perfect test for NextGen. Osieck had called it a "measuring stick" before the match. Well his options have grown enormously.
With results in the other World Cup qualifiers going Australia's way, this was one of those rare nights when everything came together. It could well be a turning point in the team's evolution. Let's see.
In the meantime, let's rejoice in the the most significant element of this performance, and result. Seven of the starters either came through the Hyundai A-League, or are playing in the competition now. The same applies to all four replacements. Australia ended the match with eight HAL products on the park.
Not since the early stages of the 2011 Asian Cup campaign has the team had such a local flavour.
We all know what former coach Pim Verbeek thought of that. Archie Thompson doesn't need reminding. He was described as "hopeless" by his coach in the lead-up to perhaps the low-point of the process, the match against Kuwait in Canberra in March, 2009.
The Qantas Socceroos lost that day, and three players (Mitch Nichols, Daniel Mullen and Fabien Barbiero) were considered so low in the pecking order that they wore triple-digit numbers.
Robbie Cornthwaite didn't (he wore no.35), but he felt the pain of a crushing defeat as much as anyone. More than three years later, "Biggles" finally got another chance to prove he deserves to be an international player. The former Adelaide United defender duly obliged by bobbing up to score the winner against the Koreans. Vindication? You could say that. Both for Cornthwaite, and the Hyundai A-League.
When are your Caltex Socceroos in action this weekend?
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