Tom Rogic struggles in warm-up match
Midfielder Tom Rogic's selection in the Socceroos' 23-man World Cup squad is in doubt after a lacklustre performance against a Brazilian club side.PT1M10S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-39fz4 620 349 June 3, 2014
Former Brazilian international Roque Junior knows what it takes to win a World Cup. Success, he says, is all about the collective, not the individual. You can have all the talented individuals you like, or a handful of superstars, but if you don't play as a team and keep it tight at the back you have no chance.
The tall, lean, 37-year-old these days lives back in his home country, in the city of Curitiba, where he has been involved in coaching a local club.
Adam Taggart got the first goal for the Socceroos. Photo: Getty Images
But 12 years ago he was at the heart of the Selecao's defence when Brazil won the World Cup in Japan, defeating Germany in the final with a team containing superstars like Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.
On Monday the former Bayer Leverkusen, Leeds United, Palmeiras and AC Milan defender was a charismatic figure at the Socceroos training ground, having helped organise the friendly against Clube Parana, with whom he had been working until recently.
While he tried to put a brave face on the challenge facing Australia - who take on Spain, The Netherlands and Chile in the group phase - he couldn't offer much in the way of support.
Matt McKay of the Socceroos contests the ball during a training match with Parana Clube. Photo: Getty Images
''It's a very hard group, this is true, What I can say. Just good luck,'' he answered with a smile when asked about Australia's prospects.
Roque Jnr's advice to the youthful Socceroos can be summed up thus: go out, enjoy the experience, do your best and stick to what you know - the basics of football.
''They have pressure because this is the World Cup, but they have to play. On the pitch you have to do what they know, it's football. We can talk a lot of things outside the pitch, but inside they are prepared, they are professional, they have experience, they should just play football.''
Easier said than done, maybe, but few are better placed to talk of what is required on the biggest stage of all.
Roque Jnr is optimistic about the prospects of his own country, despite the enormous emotional and psychological pressure that will be brought to bear on the players, especially the star man Neymar.
''It's a good opportunity for us to have the World Cup. People in the world can see how it works in Brazil, how the people are, and for us, for the football we have many new stadiums. it's a good opportunity.''
Part of Roque's confidence comes from the presence in the Brazilian technical area of Luiz Felipe Scolari, the man who guided his team to victory in Korea/Japan 2002. Few can handle the pressure as well as the man they call ''Big Phil''.
''I think he's the best coach to be in this position. In 2002 he had big pressure because of Romario [whom he left out of the Brazilian squad, a decision vindicated by the World Cup win]. Now it's different because of the pressure in our country.You have all the people with you, all the fans want the title and you play at home. I think he can do it.
''It's better now Neymar went to Europe, and played in the big tournaments, played for the big clubs. Now he's more prepared for the World Cup.
''But you need a team to win the World Cup. In 2002 we won it with a team. You need the good players, he is a good player, but you need all the other players too. You cannot win a World Cup with just one player.
''Today football has changed. You have attack and good skills, but you win with the defence. In the Confederations Cup [a ''test event'' for the World Cup held in Brazil last year] they did something different. They played with attack, but also defence. To win this title they have to have the quality players we have, but also play well in defence. We won, I hope they also win.''
Looking back on his own success, he still smiles despite the fact that triumph was more than a decade ago. In Brazil, he explained, everyone wants to play football, everyone aspires to being in the national team, everyone wants to succeed so much that actually pulling it off is like a fantasy.
''I had a dream when I was young, and that dream was to play in the big teams and the national team. When you arrive in the final and win the title, you feel like a child [whose dream has come true].
''It was a very good pleasure [to play in that team]. When you have a dream and also you can play with players like Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho at the same time it's wonderful. It was a very nice opportunity.''
Tim Cahill is the only member of the Australian squad he has heard of, but he has pleasant memories of his brief period (a one-season loan) at Leeds United, when he was a teammate of Mark Viduka.
''He's a very good guy, he helped me to learn English, he helped me a lot. He was a good player, it's difficult to be so tall and be so good technically.''
While he fancies Brazil's chances, he is realistic enough to know that the European superpowers will pose an enormous threat, even here in South America, a continent where no European nation has ever won a World Cup.
''We have a chance to win, but I don't know ... we have very good teams, Germany, Spain, Italy, we have more chance to win because we are at home, but I don't think we have a disaster if we don't win the World Cup.
''For Brazil, it's positive pressure. Playing in our country, having the fans in our side, puts positive pressure on. If you start with a good win, like we started in the Confederations Cup, the fans come with the team. I believe in the positive pressure.
''If we arrive in the final I think Brazil will win ... If you are in the final we have a big chance to win, whether it is against Argentina, Spain, Germany.''
An experimental Australian side got its Brazilian campaign off to a winning start against local second division side Clube Parana, two first-half goals from Adam Taggart and Oliver Bozanic enough to see off the opposition in a warm-up match before the serious stuff starts at the weekend with a game against Croatia.
While some players certainly advanced their cases for retention in the squad or to play a part in the tournament proper - especially Bozanic,Massimo Luongo and Ben Halloran - the highly-regarded Tom Rogic finished the game with a cloud over his head.
The latter's fitness has been a concern for months and the frailty of his body has been a major issue clouding his selection. He started this game in an advanced midfield role but contributed little after he sustained another knock midway through the opening period, being replaced at half time as Melbourne Victory's James Troisi came into the game.
Rogic represents the biggest gamble that Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou has to take when he names the squad on Tuesday night, Australian time.
The lanky midfielder offers a creative option that few others in this group of players can and his vision gives him the ability to unlock defences with sharp passes in an instant. But he has not been able to play any consistent football for the best part of a year now and he still looks some way off match sharpness.
Postecoglou's dilemma is whether to go with the elegant Celtic man, knowing that while he may only be used as an impact player he can offer something the team lacks, or whether to be the pragmatist and leave him out on the basis that no-one who is not fit enough to play a full game should be part of a World Cup squad.
Certainly assistant coach Aurelio Vidmar made no secret of his admiration for the midfielder who spent the second half of the season in the A-League on loan to Melbourne Victory.
"He hasn’t played in quite a while so you’ve got to remember most of these guys haven’t played for quite a while and they’ve had a pretty heavy load over the last three weeks.Tommy was in the camp in the beginning of May in Adelaide, so he’s had some extra work as well, he just needs to find a little bit of rhythm.
“As I said it was pretty hard out there, tough conditions. It was an important hit-out for everyone. He was probably frustrated because he didn’t get too much of the ball and they closed him pretty sharply today so you’ve got to try and find your rhythm and when you’re not in match rhythm it’s a bit difficult but he put himself out there and tried to do his best.
''For me he’s certainly a very special player, he’s young, he’s got a lot to learn but he’s one of those that, in a second, can turn a game for you. So all of those considerations will be up for debate tonight.(when the team management decides which four players to cull).
“He’s got a level head on his shoulders so there’s been a lot of talk over the last year or two that he’s the nest massive player coming out of Australia but he’s still got a lot of work to do. He’s young, he knows what his capabilities are, he’s a very good player and the more game time he has the better he’ll become.
“We’ve seen a massive improvement from the early days when he was at Central Coast to where he is now so there’s no doubt that the more games he plays the better and stronger he will become and the more influential he will be for our team.''
“No-one’s out of the picture, that’s a discussion we’ll have tonight with the coaching staff and Ange and look to move forward from there."
Josh Kennedy had been expected to lead the line in this game, but made way for Taggart after the Socceroos coaching staff decided not to risk him for fear up worsening an ongoing back injury. But there was no long-term fitness doubt about Kennedy's readiness for the World Cup, Vidmar said.
"He aggravated his back right at the end of training yesterday and he’s pulled up quite well this morning so we decided not to risk it and that’s why Adam played. We had a chat to him this morning and he’s very good, we just thought it was the best thing for him not to take any chances.'' Still, Taggart did his cause no harm, netting the second goal with a sharp first-time finish from a Luke Wilkshire cross in the 28th minute
Vidmar did, however, say that full-back Ivan Franjic, whose arrival in Brazil saw him nursing a knee injury, was progressing well and would be ready to rejoin full training soon.
''He’s back in the group on Wednesday, so he trained over the last couple of days. He trained this morning, he had a modified session with four or five that we had out there then did a bit of extra work after that and he felt no pain or ill-effects of the knock that he got.''
Should Postecoglou and his team opt to leave Rogic out then Luongo would likely be the beneficiary. The 21-year-old midfielder, who plays for Swindon Town in England's third tier, had a solid game against Clube Parana, working hard and seeking to break the lines with through balls. While he has been little heralded in the run up to this tournament he looks, on the evidence of this performance, that he can certainly make a contribution.
As can Bozanic, once a Central Coast team-mate of Rogic's who now plays in Switzerland. He looked accomplished in midfield in the first half, getting forward to score the opening goal in the 18th minute, and then showing his versatility when he slotted in at left back in the second period, alternating with McKay who went to a more familiar midfield role having played at left back in the first half.
Halloran's pace and dynamism down the right also makes him a threat, and a viable alternative to Matthew Leckie, who has been used in the starting line up in that wide attacking position in recent games.
Bailey Wright, the Preston North End centre half, made his first appearance in a Socceroos XI although it cannot be counted as a full international. But, said Vidmar, he was happy to be part of the group and had fitted in well.
The assistant coach also had good things to say of Bozanic and Luongo.
“He (Bozanic) was one of the better performers today for sure, he was really solid. It’s something we wanted to try as well, with the change at left-back with Matty McKay and they both did quite well.
“The second half became a bit more of a game of transition, even the opposition started giving it away as well and we gave it away a bit more than what we wanted. But that’s work in progress.
''I thought he (Luongo) was pretty good today, especially in the first half, he played a lot of balls forward and that’s exactly what we’re looking for from midfielders.
“He linked up really well and as the game got stretched in the second half we lost our way and it became a bit of a transition game, which is not what we want. We want to keep it a bit more controlled. But he was good and again a young player no-one knows a lot about him but he looks quite silky and tidy so I think he’s got a good future.''
As the management team spend the next 12 hours working on the final composition of the squad, Vidmar suggested that adaptability would be a key criteria.
“In the end, after discussions with Ange and the coaching group, it’s going to be what the best balance is going forward and if we’re really stuck in any spots whether we’ve got players who are flexible enough to play one or two positions. I think that’s what it’s going to come down to.’’