Australia 2 - Norway 2

Fairly entertaining game in patches - good to see SBS showing the match, and I thought the use of Gary Bloom as commentator was quite a good idea (although he might practice the pronunciation of the players' names a bit).

TBH Norway were a pretty dreadful team, entire first half consisted of punting up to Carew and Iversen, or hoping to snatch something from a long throw or corner. Second half they tried to occasionally play on the break (with Gamst Pedersen and Hoseth looking quite skilful) but most of the time just defended with about 7 across the pitch. They were also missing about three starters, so Australia really should have pummelled them.

I still think Australia struggle to understand the 4-3-3 formation. In the first half especially the play was so narrow, with Cahill and Bresciano looking confused whenever Kewell or Emerton drifted inside. Add to the fact that Neill and Lazaridis did not get forward much in any effective sense and the game was being played in short touches through the middle of the park. For the most part this didn't really come off.

Predictably Norway's goal came off a long ball, where Hoseth cut inside of Neill and Cahill and hit a decent shot which Schwartzer parried right onto Iversen's (unmarked) boot, for him to tap in from about three yards out. Mental note to Frank Farina, *nothing* will be won with a centre-back combination of Vidmar and Popovic. Someone mentioned last week that they are just too slow to cut it at the top level. Agreed. There is a also a reason Vidmar is playing for Cardiff City. Don't know why he wouldn't have given a younger player a run in this one to be honest.

Australia fought back well and should have instantly equalised when Kewell fluffed a header from five yards out. They scored minutes later when Bresciano's little scooped pass saw Cahill beat the offside trap and finish bravely.

Half time saw Grella come on for Bresciano (don't know why) and Tiatto (sigh, why is this guy still getting a game) for Lazaridis (who looked a) injured b) bereft of a first touch).

Australia had all the pressure for the first twenty after the break, with Emerton in particular running Riise ragged. In fact Emerton looked like what Kewell used to look like - willing, fast, effective, able to beat a man, interested, etc. None of those adjectives could be used to describe Kewell's performance.

Goal was a nice one, Neill was getting forward more and took a ball from Emerton, played a touch into Viduka who played a clever return pass through the defender's legs with his back to goal. Neill looked to have been chopped, but Skoko (who had a good game) was following in and sidefooted home from about ten yards out.

Another nice build-up five minutes later between Emerton and Neill saw Skoko waste a volley opportunity from about fifteen yards out, and then Cahill missed an easy header from a fine Skoko ball. Should have been humping the Norwegians by this point, as they were reduced to clearing their lines and getting ready for the next attack.

More substitutions saw Chipperfield and Erlich on for Emerton and Cahill, and a lot of the spark left the Australian game. Predictably, a foul from Tiatto resulted in a free kick in an awkward wide position. Gamst Pedersen's whipped-in ball was challenged by Iversen, but not by Schwartzer who star-fished and watched it sweep past him. Not the kind of thing Man United would have liked to have seen, you would think.

Game was dead after that, although a decent-sized crowd at Craven Cottage (12,000?) backed Australia all the way.

Two final thoughts on this performance, both relating to the marquee players. Viduka played well with his back to goal and showed skilful touches. He lacks the extra yard of explosiveness that lets him get past players however, and is increasingly being caught in possession. His workrate, as always, remains suspect and his lack of a run in the final minute from Elrich's ball made the young guy look a bit silly.

Kewell is a shadow of his former self, and a liability in that he doesn't hold the wide position, a la Emerton in the 4-3-3 so is constantly wandering into Viduka's space and bring his marker with him. For a team with no wide midfielders, this results in even more congestion than is necessary.


Schwartzer (6) - Stop flapping
Neill (7) - Figured it out in the second half
Popovic (6) - Still ball watching
Vidmar (5) - Why is he on the park
Lazaridis (5) - Looks to be developing a nice third touch
Bresciano (7) - Tidy half of football, don't think he had the marking sorted out
Skoko (8) - Knows what he is doing, dangerous coming forward
Cahill (8) - Also looked a bit confused, *loves* getting forward
Emerton (9) - Best man on the park
Viduka (7) - Fine as a target man to feet, struggled for pace
Kewell (5) - Lazy, disinterested

Tiatto (6) - Snapped and fouled his way around the park
Grella (7) - Quietly effective, understood the system and did a decent job defensively
Chipperfield (-) Not on long enough to do anything
Elrich (-) Ditto

written by James Walker