If last night’s friendly against Singapore was all about seeing who of the young or fringe players could step up to pressure of international level and press their claims for honours later on, as I argued at the bottom of yesterday’s piece, then unfortunately the heavy conditions didn’t really allow Pim Verbeek an accurate gauge of where his men are at. Indeed, nor did it really give the players a fair chance to make a serious case for Kuming and beyond, but even then, Verbeek will have learnt a bit about his men, some of it good, some of it not so good. Here I run the rule over last night’s contributors, with an eye towards China and beyond;
Ante Covic, 6; Didn’t have a great deal to do, but looked a little nervy on a couple of long range efforts. Got down well to his left to deny Singapore a late winner and generally his distribution when releasing with the arm was good.
Adam Griffiths, 5; looked very nervous and hesitant in the first period and not very comfortable out on the right. Over-hit his distribution too often and will surely not have convinced Verbeek he is up to the task of filling Emerton’s boots on Wednesday. Looked a little more comfortable in the middle towards the end where he won a couple of headers.
Jade North, 7; one of Australia’s best, he made a number of very good defensive reads, covering his backline and making timely interventions. On the ball he was neat, but not always accurate, especially when he went long. Looked better when he went looking for a short option out of the back, it was good to see him take his recent A-league form onto the international stage. The fact he got the captains armband after the break means Verbeek thinks highly of him, but we already know that. Wouldn’t look out of place alongside Neill in central defence or out wide on the right against China, it seems North has finally matured.
Michael Beauchamp, 6; a little rash in the challenge on the odd occasion, he had a tough job shadowing the mobile Singapore captain Indra Sahdan, but stuck to the job well and proved he is still one of our best man-markers.
Nikolai Topor-Stanley, 6.5; looked really good early, getting forward and providing a bit of width, but slowed down after about 20 minutes, sticking more to the defensive stuff, most of which he did reasonably well. Stayed alive when the ball was on the other side and made one important interception in the 90th minute. Decent debut.
Mile Jedinak, 5.5; Not bad, but could have been much better. More a ball winner than a distributor (say like a Musialik or Valeri), didn’t see enough of him seeking the ball from the defence and launching the Socceroos attack, or seeking the ball and switching it from side to side. The holding midfielder must boss the game and we didn’t see enough of this. Late on he was turned inside the box, which might have proved more costly. Surprised he gets a gig in the China squad given Grella, Valeri, Culina and Wilkshire are already there.
Harry Kewell, 6; playing in the unfamiliar central midfield space, it was a surprise to see Kewell playing so deep at times, often calling for the ball out of defence and looking to feed his strikers. Most of the things he did were neat, but there was very little space of him to do it in. Would be great to see him let loose in a wider area on Wednesday.
James Troisi, 7; played left of Kewell and did some really neat things on the ball, with both feet. Probably could have got wide more often, but appeared to be under instructions to “tuck-in”, as we heard Arnold instruct through the side-line microphone. Hit one right foot blast in the first period and showed good defensive discipline, showing Verbeek he can do a job. Would be nice to seem him again, especially with a little more license to get forward.
James Holland, 6.5; thrust in an unfamiliar role, on the right of a midfield diamond, Holland was generally neat, without every really getting in behind the Singapore left back. When moved into a more familiar holding role alongside Jedinak in the second period he looked more comfortable. Like Troisi he proved he can do a job, and better days lie ahead.
Mark Bridge, 5.5; quiet, he struggled to really link with the likes of Thompson and Kewell in the first period. When Djite and Burns came on in the second period, Bridge had some familiarity and the football looked better, but a technical ball-playing footballer of his nature was never really going to enjoy the heavy going. Better days will come.
Archie Thompson, 6; like Kewell, given 45 minutes, but failed to really make an impression in the heavy going. Got in behind a couple of times, but generally there was little space for Thompson to weave his magic as Singapore flooded back. Not sure he did enough to get into the starting 11 against China.
Bruce Djite, 6; started the second half really well, using his power to trouble the Singapore defence, create one chance with his strength and generally hold the ball up well and linking with Olyroo mates Bridge and Burns. But then he drifted out of it as the hosts took control in the final quarter of the match.
Nathan Burns, 6.5; busy and mobile, he was everywhere, dropping back to help in defence and driving forward despite the heavy conditions. Plenty of good things to come.
Ryan Griffiths, 4; a mystery why he was even called into the squad.
Leigh Broxham, 4.5; brought on in the unfamiliar right-back role, he did well to get to the by-line with one of his first touches, before going missing in his defensive duties a short time later.
Adrian Leijer, 5; not really enough time to make an impression, but I still think he could move right up the central defensive pecking order if he can every find some regular game time at Fulham. Maybe Beijing will be his showcase.
So with all that in mind, attention now turns to the China qualifier on Wednesday night, and given the quality of the players that have pulled out from the original squad with injury (Cahill, Kennedy, Emerton and Sterjovski) or been left out (Carle and Burns) and the fact the game is at altitude, things appear to be looking a little more difficult for the Socceroos.