Brasilia, 07/09/13 : Brazil 6 – Australia 0
Aren’t we all being a little hysterical? We wanted to compare ourselves with best in the world, and quickly found we were too slow on the ball, poorly organised, and simply out-gunned. Instead of accepting this reality and learning from it, within hours of the 6-0 loss to Brazilthe calls are out – most notably and stridently from Les Murray at theworldgame website – to sack coach Holger Osieck. Is it only last June that Australia qualified for the World Cup with a gritty determination over two potentially sudden death games like we come to expect? What has changed since then? One “friendly”, against Brazil, played in Brazil. Wow, what a measuring stick! Forget the real accomplishment of World Cup qualification, now the barometer is a match against a super-power of the sport, in their own backyard, and of the type of match more commonly known for its farcical commitment and wanton experimentation. To Brazil’s credit, they put out a full strength team, and really made a spectacle of it on their national independence day. They’ve also come off winning the Confederations Cup that included hammering world champions Spain in the final, and other friendly matches including a 3-0 drubbing of France. Clearly approaching top gear for their home World Cup next year.
In contrast, most of Australia’s players are in off season or just emerging from it. More than that, affecting the team most, as Osieck did allude in his post-match, our team has just been playing 18 months of grinding World Cup qualifiers. Now they were hit with a culture shock. It’s totally different football from Asia where Australia were doing the pressuring and had plenty of time on the ball, to then playing Brazil and the entire situation is reversed. They didn’t cope. One more reminder: this is Brazil. Five-time world champions. They just beat Spain 3-0 in the Confederations Cup final. We’ve yet to even qualify for five World Cups, much less think about winning, or qualified for a Confederations Cup at all in our time in Asia. Who do we think we are? We’re still a third world team when it comes to the crunch, and kidding ourselves that we believe we can constantly mix it with these teams.
The more important point raised by the likes of Murray is about some of the team selections. Murray questioned why Tom Rogic didn’t start ahead of Brett Holman rather than replace him as substitute. Maybe if the entire country had not been so seduced by Holman cracking a nice goal every three years he’d not be in the team at all. His situation playing club football in the Middle East exemplifies the entire team’s problem: the football there just isn’t the right tempo. Maybe it is for playing fellow Asian teams, it’s not against crack South American and European teams. Arab nations have shown this flaw themselves on the World stage, being easily pushed around and unable to combat the speed. Now Australia is showing signs. Brazil pounced upon Holman’s lazy pass to score their second; in the Middle East it goes unpunished. It’s a dangerous trend long term if more and more players are there, that Australia could become the Saudia Arabia of the south. Robbie Slater is effusive that we don’t pick players in these leagues. Personally, no exceptions. Marco Bresciano, Alex Brosque, Holman, goodbye. Top teams from Australia’s state leagues wouldn’t be any worse than those Arab clubs, and we would never select from there.
Sacking Holger is not the answer. ALL our recent coaches, including the much vaunted Guus Hiddinck himself, were loath to scope much below the top echelon of older, experience players. So why would any other coach? To think the FFA would even hire a coach based on “play youth only, we don’t care if you miss the World Cup”, it’s laughable. No serious coach would accept that, nor would fans tolerate it if they just thought about it for one second instead of becoming hysterical over a loss to Brazil.
The goal still is to perform well at the World Cup and be realistic about our exceptions, not fool around trying younger players and believing that’s the magical solution. We just did an entire experiment at the EAFF Cup finals and none other than Mitchell Duke emerged. The answer now is to target high quality opponents in future international matches (no Asian opponents) and give the team its chance to adjust. Next month is France, so that will be a nice measure. Remember, Australia beat Germany in Germany not so long ago, and if there’s one thing we know about football, momentum – and attitude – can change quickly.