Pim Verbeek - Q & A
Pim Verbeek takes time out on his return to Sydney to give us his thoughts on the China match and what's coming up.
How-s the body feeling after a fairly exhausting trip to Singapore and China?
At the moment I am quite okay. This morning when I arrived at 6 o-clock Sydney time, you are still feeling 3 o-clock Chinese time. Leaving China with a draw, after a good game and watching many new young players, I think that makes the trip home easier and it-s not a problem.
Was that the most arduous preparation you have ever encountered for a match before?
Yes, without any doubts. I never expected something like this to happen. Okay, maybe I was expecting something to happen because I took seven extra players into China, I was very pleased to have those extra players with me.
Given the circumstances surrounding the match, would you have taken a 0-0 scoreline before a ball had been kicked?
It was quite dangerous and difficult of course, when all those boys were going out (injured). I was expected to have Harry (Kewell) of course with us; Bruce Djite played well also (against Singapore) and plus Archie Thompson, so I still thought, well I have strikers, so I can still do something. Then Harry was out the day before the game, the same with Bruce and then we all saw what happened with Archie at the start of the match. So after you see that and all the circumstances, I am quite pleased with the result.
You must be happy that we have now kept two clean sheets from the opening two qualifying games?
That-s a great job I think. If you see the backline was quite different from the game against Qatar, with two new players, so I think we did very well. Okay you always give a few chances away in every game and we also had a few chances. I think for 89 minutes the organization was good; I think Lucas did a great job with the organization and the two boys, (Michael) Beauchamp and (Jade) North they played a great game.
Was there any particular highlight for you from this match?
The young boys to be honest; all the boys who did not start against Qatar but did against China that gave me a good feeling. I also had a good feeling from the Singapore game when I saw a lot of young boys stepping up. Mile Jedinak to give you an example and don-t forget (James) Troisi who did a very good job and James Holland as well. So I think it will be interesting in the coming years.
You mentioned Singapore, did the two games against Singapore and China provide you with plenty of answers going forward to the June matches? Yes. Okay every game is different of course, Singapore was different because of the heat and it was quite humid and also with what happened before the game; the pitch was quite tough, quite difficult. China was the altitude, with only two days of preparation. If you see that, then I am looking forward to seeing how the boys play with quite a normal preparation and hopefully, and I don-t say anymore than hopefully, it (normal preparation) will happen for the June game against Iraq.
Do you think the Australian players are starting to learn and adapt to the vagaries of Asian football?
Yes, you have seen the results from Wednesday, you see the big names of Asian football like Japan, Saudi and Iran, they all struggled and you can see how difficult it is to play in Asia. There are no easy games in Asia anymore, that-s the biggest lesson all the players I think have learned from the Asian Cup last summer. The boys know that it-s not easy; they know they have to concentrate; they know they have to be here, all together; they cannot leave it up to some young guys to give them a chance. They want to go to the World Cup, so they told me they will be there every game regardless.
Before the qualifiers started, Iraq was considered the main danger in the group. But they have struggled and sit bottom of the group table and we now play them twice in a row. Does this make these matches harder and doubly important, particularly as this could decide their fate in these qualifiers?
Normally Iraq is a team that plays counter-attack. They have 6-7 tough defenders and 3-4 fast, dangerous strikers and they wait for the counter-attack. Yes, they have to win now, so they have to come and play, even in our home game and that probably should give us more space than we would expect normally. I think it will be an open game, they have to win that game and if we win that game then we are already a big, big step ahead to the next round.
What did you make of Qatar-s win over Iraq? They looked a completely different side to the one we beat 3-0 in Melbourne.
I think we played very well here and they were impressed, because of the fans, the stadium and the players we had on the pitch. We should not forget we all look at the Premiership, the Bundesliga and all those top countries and our players are playing there, so they were impressed and we took the game to them in the first 45 minutes and we did a great job in that game. They have now two different strikers and we always said that Qatar away, in the heat of 40+ degrees, will be tough also. So hopefully in that time, we have most of our points and already qualified.
Given the injuries suffered in the lead up to going to China and in China itself, I take it you will be doing plenty of praying for no more injuries prior to the June matches?
Yes, we all think about the good preparation we could have, but we have other worries like the end of the league of the 1st Division (Championship) in England; I think they play 46 games. In the Bundesliga, I think they finish on the 18th May; Italy finish on the 18th May and I think Carl Valeri even will finish on the 4th June, so it will still be a tough preparation. I think the boys will take a few days off and then will be there ready to get us through these qualifiers.
What plans do you have for the next couple of months? You are heading overseas this weekend and meeting up with several players.
Yep, I am leaving (last) Sunday, so next week I will be in Europe. I have a schedule and I-d like to see the players I have not seen before; there are still a lot of players I have not seen before. Meet them, see them play, I-d like to see the boys who were not in camp last week and explain to them what we are going to do in the summer time. I will also try to meet some managers, which is always difficult around games, so that-s the plan for the next four or five weeks. Prepare the boys mentally for what-s going to happen in the summer.
What about the local boys?
I spoke to them of course, those who were with us. The Olyroos are having a tough preparation with Arnie (Graham Arnold) and that-s good. Again you see the Singapore game and I see the training sessions with all the boys; I am really impressed. They will get a tough time and for us that-s perfect; a lot of international experience. The other boys like Jade (North), Mile (Jedinak) and Adam Griffiths, just to give a few examples from the Hyundai A-League; Ante Covic, they will be in training here, so I am not too worried about them. The moment we start in the middle of May, they will be physically and mentally ready.
Finally, any message for the fans, as we head to this small break?
The fans are always the number 12 for the team. They bring the team to an extra level and we have two very important home games to come. We had 60 Australian fans with yellow shirts in China, and I think they did a great job. I think the boys showed they have the typical Aussie mentality in very tough circumstances and they were fighting for more than 90 minutes. I think the fans can be proud of the players and they will do everything they can to get to the World Cup.
When are your Caltex Socceroos in action this weekend?
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