All the chronic weaknesses and only a few of the virtues of Australian soccer were brutally evident in last Sunday's match against the English FA. Australia, while heir strength lasted, displayed courage and determination. Occassionally, almost exclusively in the first galf, they even showed initiative and combinative skill. All these, however, faded as the match wore on. Towards the end Australia lay in ruins, a well beaten team physically exhausted and its spirit crushed.
The first 30 minutes or save gave few hints as to the sad finale. In this period Australia were almost on equal terms; the defence was holding the English at bay while the forwards appeared ready to storm Grummit's goal. However, the first few minutes of the second half turned out to be decisive. The English started at a furious pace, mounting one attack after another and within two minutes created some great chances. When, after a barrage of seven minutes; they scored their goal, the match was clearly beyond redemption. Australia jolted by the shock, wilted visibly, and all the accumulated frustrations felt against superior opponents came to the fore.
The English team was superior - only fools can deny this. They were better as a team and as individuals. The English were faster - faster on their feet and also with their thinking. They won almost all heading duels and even fellows like Garland and Piper, not tall by Australian standards, easily outjumped Wilson. Their superior skill in the fundamentals of the game is again undeniable. They can trap, stroke and flick a ball with one or two easy movements - for our players these still present a huge problem under pressure. Once again, the English satisfied a basic requirement of modern soccer; they are on the run most of the time.
In contrast, especially in the second half, the Australians usually waited for the ball to reach them, watching just what thier fellow in possession would do next. The English game was fluent; ours was staccato. Their game was modern; ours was outdated. They looked professional; ours appeared to be enthusiastic amateurs in the second half. Of course, these contrasts will always engage when we play professionals from Britian; don't let the narrow 1-0 scoreline fool anybody.
One last word; in the second half, Australia didn't even fight as one always expects it to. Demoralised by the vast superiority of their opponents, some of the tired Australian players seemed to throw in the towel. Some will argue that either Tolson or Turner would have been a better choice to come in as a substitute for Abonyi. Perhaps, after all, Norman touched the ball only once in 18 minutes. But it's all so very deja vu. Neither Denton nor Rutherford or Alagich - all have been tried - would have made any real difference; no permutation among our top 20 forwards would give us an attack capable of rattling this English defence - or any other English team.
The English FA, let's pay them their due tribute, were an efficient, well organised team. They didn't do anything extraordinary or startling; but what they did do was skilful, methodical and well rehearsed. I very much doubt if the wild claimds are true about "several" of their players being future England caps. The question, whether such predictable debacles against English visitors are absolutely necessary, will have to be asked soon.