Young hearts, be free tonight,
Time is on your side
Don’t let ‘em put you down
Don’t let ‘em push you around
Don’t ever let ‘em change your point of view…”
(“Young Turks”, Rod Stewart, 1981)
Ange’s Brave New World - it's here in all its glory and with just a touch of naiveté.
A while back I wrote of going to Brazil with the intent to bravely take the game to Chile, Holland and Spain. To try and to put them on the back foot by backing ourselves. To aim, at the very least, to go out with a bang rather than a whimper.
Well, if the Ecuador game is any indication, Postecoglou and his new breed of Socceroos intend to do just that.
We are a work in progress and I hope that the final bugs will be ironed out once the squad goes into camp for the South Africa farewell match and then the World Cup preparations in Vitoria.
But what a start.
Any player, fortunate enough to have been coached by Postecoglou, will tell you Ange is unique because he takes the shackles off. Players are not afraid to try things, knowing that all the coach wants them to do in possession is to relax on the ball and play football.
Sure, keep making the same mistake over and over again and you’ll find yourself on the bench. But give things a go and don’t be afraid of failure, for that is the way to success.
What a contrast with our two previous managers!
The first half
Watching the Socceroos became fun again. Utterly dominant in possession, attacking from the get-go and unafraid to run at a shell-shocked Ecuadorean defence, the boys in Green and Gold wound back the clock to the days when fans clamoured for a glimpse of our Golden Generation.
The Tommies, Rogic and Oar, were outstanding - Rogic finding himself in acres of space and Oar bamboozling his markers out on the left.
Milligan and Jedinak always looked to play forward while Tim Cahill locked himself into the starting XI in Brazil. It was the hungriest and sharpest Cahill has looked in years and he seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed himself.
The second half
I would like to think that we will learn from the naivety we displayed. At 3-2 up and a man down we needed to shut up shop. To keep wingbacks Franjic and Davidson from bombing on so high up the park, slow the game down and, frankly, put one half of the field up for sale and protect home base.
There is nothing wrong with playing for a result.
Instead, even a man down, we went all gung-ho, still trying to score that fourth goal, when a bit of pragmatism could have got us a win or at least a draw. With fullbacks high up, we were badly exposed out wide and punished accordingly. Shades of Brisbane Roar in Asia a couple of years back?
Having touched on Cahill and Oar, I thought Curtis Good was excellent on debut. Demonstrating strength in the tackle, a good turn of pace, a positional sense that belies his 21 years of age and total comfort in possession. He clearly has all the tools in his kitbag to be a Socceroo for a decade to come.
It is, therefore, a terrible shame that Good will miss the next six weeks with a hip flexor tear. I hope he takes no shortcuts with his rehabilitation as hips have a tendency to flare up again and again if not completely healed. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe this injury setback is enough to keep him out of World Cup contention, even if he will most likely miss the South Africa friendly in May.
There is a ton of value to have come out of the friendly. I take away the following:
- DO NOT pick players who aren’t regulars at their clubs. Rusty strikers miss chances. Rusty defenders miss tackles and find themselves out of position. Rusty keepers mis-time their challenges, fail to hold the ball and are shaky on crosses.
Mitch Langerak’s ludicrous flying Tae Kwon Do kick on the on-rushing Ecuadorean striker bore all the hallmarks of a keeper who has played too little football in recent months. Or of Eric Cantona at Selhurst Park.
If Mitch Langerak is not playing regularly at Dortmund by May – and he won’t be - perhaps the fit and firing Eugene Galekovic needs to be first option off the bench for Mat Ryan.
Langerak has done his apprenticeship and has all the talent in the world to become an outstanding keeper. If Roman Weidenfeller is still number one at Dortmund next season, Langerak needs to be playing elsewhere.
- Know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. Pure football is nice but so are three points.
- Tim Cahill must play and I am afraid that means the bench for Josh Kennedy and no room for Harry Kewell.
- Tommy Oar is now close to being the complete footballer and I thought his display was outstanding.
- Ange, you have made a whole bunch of Mariners fans happy by giving minutes to Oliver Bozanic and Alex Wilkinson. Are we done now?
- Tommy Rogic seemed to run out of puff the longer the game went. Is he a 90-minute player? And, all things being equal, is he now ahead of Mark Bresciano in the pecking order?
- Mathew Leckie may not be the answer. I wonder what Ben Halloran can offer out on the right, in Robbie Kruse’s absence? Or how about Nikita Rukavytsya?
- With Curtis Good injured and Sasa Ognenovski firing in the A-League, is a Socceroo recall on the cards for the big fella?
Finally a word on baby-faced Jason Davidson. I have yet to see a more mistake-prone Socceroo. In his short tenure as Green and Gold left-back, he has scored an own goal, slipped in an inopportune moment, launched himself kamikaze-style at a player in possession and caused heart flutters at Allianz with a back-pass that defied belief.
The rest of the time he has been outstanding, the closest thing we have had to a complete left-back since Tony Vidmar in the late ‘90s. Talk about Jekyll and Hyde!
Yes, we have a severe shortage of quality and depth in that position and perhaps a call up to young Brad Smith of Liverpool isn’t out of order. But Davidson needs time and patience. I believe that in a few short years he will go on to become one of our greats. And wouldn’t that be an Australian Story worthy of the TV program.
After all that...
A first half of freshness and promise followed by a second half of naïve, gung-ho intent.
We may have lost the game, but the Socceroos showed that they will be going to the World Cup to give it a red hot go.
But only club regulars must play.
It will be heart-stopping and at, times, frustrating. And for the first time in a long time, it will be entertaining.