It's been a day of football for me. I started with an early morning and a live telecast of Colombia and Chile, a wrap of games from around the world a replay of Ajax v Arsenal and a personal attendance to watch Sydney beat Adelaide. I finish this day with Australia meeting Jamaica in the final game Australia will play prior to the quadrennial do-or-die encounter for the elusive World Cup appearance.
I have my ticket for the final 2006 world cup qalifying match on the planet but I remain skeptical about the preparations. 8 Years ago we had a single match against Tunisia, who this day booked a return to the World Cup finals, prior to the ill fated matches against Iran. In the recriminations afterwards one of the main concerns was the level of match fitness as a national side.
4 years later we had many more matches, the confederations cup helped and we got the reigning World Cup champions. Ok we still tanked against Uruguay... still it seems we may be revisiting the same problems. Possibly introducing some new ones also. Guus Hiddink replaces Frank Farina in a move which was at best poorly timed. What effect this will have on the team is hard to gauge, matches against the Solomons are no cakewalk... but I suspect I could coach the Socceroos to victory there.
Guus seems to like a 3-4-3 formation, Frank seemed to have a variety of ways to obfuscate the fact he was basically playing a 5-4-1. We're down on match practice and the new coach hasn't seen Harry play at all... then again few of us have too (OK, OK that was a cheap shot... I admit it. Sorry Harry, I know you're a big fan of the site).
Basically Guus has to get us past either Uruguay, Chile or Colombia. I say let him do what he thinks is needed to do so. I'm pretty sure we won't have to sack him afterwards, he'll already be gone.
I think Guus' idea is to keep good players out of the squad initially, so that when you do give them a go they go fucking nuts. I know, it's cheap to resot to vulgarities but I find it difficult to describe Bresciano's opening goal any other way. A simple one-two interchange a bit of space and a blast from well outside the area eluded all but the net. Of course, it's early days in a match with little riding on the outcome. Jamaica are now preparing for the 2010 World Cup having failed already for next years gig.
A panicked backpass in the penalty area by Jamaica tends to suggest maybe they checked their best game at the door. Still, it's not about them, it's about us and if they want to be pasted, we'll oblige. Just ask Tonga and Samoa.
Come to think of it I'm having a hard time understanding why Jamaica agreed to this match. As I said there's no tournament I'm aware of that they could be warming up for... hmm...
Kalac got a start in goal, and if I had to sort the players who fit the crack I made about Harry earlier in the piece he would be one of the last people I could apply that to. However Jamaica were making him work for his money and, as is often the case, it seems to be taking them a while to see that high balls into the area are not the path to success when the goalie is over 2 metres tall.
The game gave you the impression that it could be a bit better with a little effort but both sides were holding back a bit.. not really pushing and happy to pass the ball back rather than split the defence and in light of the moratorium on yellow cards in games such as these some of the tackles were a bit more clumsy than required.
I have to admit though, the second goal was better than the first and kind of negates what I just said. Culina breaking down the right (and haven't I hung shit on that poor bastard in conversation) sent a beautiful ball into the centre to Thompson who cut inside the defender and unleashed a shot that was only ever going one place.
You know how sometimes you associate phrases with actions. No? Just me then. OK when I saw Wayne Rooney red-carded by Kim Milton Nielsen for being a twat in a Champions League match I thought it was the perfect accompaniment to the phrase "snivelling toad". This goal makes me think "rapier thrust". Yes, it's a clichłęd phrase with sexual overtones... but it all equates to rapture of one variety or another. Hey you're reading this, you know what I mean.
I have to admit, Daley, Scarlett and Fuller were all doing good things too and perhaps a little more luck, and some confidence in their own defenders might have helped. And that Luton Shelton fellow.. damn he's quick. Once he learns to shoot straight he could be a problem.
Whatever their failings, and the reasons for them, Jamaica are quite well structured. They always have a guy to pass to and invariably there's a neat line across the defence and midfield when they're defending. You know I think it really is the motivation.. What they need is some East Germans laughing at their bobsled, then they'll be fine.
The socceroos started the second half defending some corners but in a repeat of the first half they maged to score a few minutes in. Thompson made a good run to the left, was picked out with the ball and managed to get about 3 defenders pay attention to what he was doing and stop them paying attention to Mark Viduka. This was a pity because Archie passed the ball to him. Unmarked, in front of goal. Now one of the Jamaicans slid across the front of Viduka and touched the ball with his hand (or at least Mark thought so< I'm not sure) so Mark appealed for a penalty. However the ball was still just in front of him... on realising this Mark just slammed the ball into the roof of the net to be sure of it. It was kind of funny.
Both sides then started with the substitutions... sigh.
Part of me wants to get rid of substitutes, and another part thinks they are great. The problem is in matches like this inevitably the coach wants to test several players and that upsets the flow of the match. Yes, I know that's kind of the point, but it's one thing to upset the flow when you're losing or have someone injured. It's another to do it just because you can't play 15-a-side.
So despite all this Skoko, Thompson and Bresciano somehow contrived to deliver the ball at the feet of the recently added Aloisi right in front of goal and the tally went up to four goals. Aloisi was suitably relieved... Harry who? (It's a joke, OK Harry, we still love you... and your English accent.. ) and whatever it is that Guus is doing it seems to be breeding the kind of confidence and performance that might just get us to the World Cup after all.
Well, let's hope so anyway.
You have to admit when Marco Bresciano is winning headers against Jamaica things are going well... (either that or there's a lot of waterfront property in Sydney changing hands).
The game degenerated somewhat but both sides continued to play openly. This may have helped to lead to Aloisi's shot at goal coming back off the post and Griffiths marginally beat him to the rebound to put up goal number five. It would be remiss not to mention Cahills efforts in that goal by getting Aloisi into a scoring position in the first place.
To be fair Jamaica really should have score one about a minute later but again this shooting straight business is harder than it looks. I think it was Gardner that sent the ball wide. He was smart enough to appeal for a corner so that at least he could claim it deflected but the ref didn't see it. There's a lot to be said for putting your arm in the air. It reminded me of earlier today when an Adelaide player had the ball go through his legs and out for a throw in after a pass from a team-mate. Instead of getting the ball he started stretching his "cramped" leg.
Despite several attempts by both sides to put the goals per pounds spent on tickets over the top the score stayed at 5-0, an impressive result that's for sure, but what does it mean? I guess we find out in November.