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Socceroos' old magic back in nick of time

Net bulger: Mark Bresciano and the Socceroos celebrate scoring the opening goal against Jordan in Melbourne on Tuesday night.

Net bulger: Mark Bresciano and the Socceroos celebrate scoring the opening goal against Jordan in Melbourne on Tuesday night. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

Mark Bresciano and Robbie Kruse dominating the midfield and making the usually tight confines of Etihad Stadium look like their personal Simpson Desert.

Tim Cahill scoring with a trademark header, then mistaking the corner post for Nate Myles's chin.

Coach Holger Osieck selecting and marshalling his troops with reassuring certainty and urging them on with an Alsatian's bark.

Captain Lucas Neill improving his international scoring strike rate to a more imposing one goal from every 91 games.

The hilarious pantomime fury of tormented Jordanian goalkeeper Amer Shafi who was substituted in the 87th minute – presumably in an effort to protect his physical and mental wellbeing more effectively than he had guarded the visitors' goal.

It was a wonderful night for the Socceroos. A dominant performance against an overwhelmed opponent. Barely a discordant note – with the exception of a group of supporters who had brought back from Japan that country's incredibly annoying drone. A T-shirt will do next time.

All in all, it was the perfect way for Australia to qualify for the World Cup. Except, of course, they haven't. Not yet.

So rather than a raucous celebration, Australia's terrific 4-0 win left that uncomfortable old Oceania group feeling. One that should have been avoided. Because you could not marvel at how well the Socceroos played on Tuesday night without simultaneously lamenting how poorly they had performed over a significant part of their qualifying campaign.

Yes, yes, yes. The reasons, even some of the excuses, remain valid.

The improvement of the other teams in Asia. Although, as Jordan's campaign demonstrated, most remain far more formidable in their own backyards, and in their own tailor-made conditions than when asked to play on a cold night on a pitch pock-marked by the studs of the regular AFL tenants.

There is the difficult transition of an Australian team caught between a golden era and one that, until Tommy Oar's bravura performance in Japan and Kruse's Tuesday night clinic, seemed far less promising. A balance which Osieck, until his final two games, never seemed to get quite right.

Regardless of what it says about the Socceroos' long-term future, many of the players the coach inherited are still clearly best equipped to get the job done.

Neill is 35 and Sasa Ognenovski 34. Behind that pair stands Mark Schwarzer, 40. There are national teams with a lower average IQ than that trio's average age.

Yet for most of the night, the Jordanians seemed no more likely to breach this Fortress of Arthritis than they were to get contracts with Real Madrid.

Bresciano, 33, was left out of the game against Oman. As he glided across the pitch in the first half, the generalissimo of the midfield, his absence on that calamitous night seemed even more poignant. Because – even allowing for the late penalty in Japan – those two points against Oman are the ones the Socceroos should have in their pouch.

Victory over Oman would have meant a week being fitted out for green and gold fruit-bowl hats and making sure the team hotel in Rio had a swim-up bar. Not hunkering down for a match against Iraq they should win, but one made so much more difficult because they must. The comforting news for those still traumatised by the tragedies of the Socceroos' now distant past? The excellent form and momentum Australia will bring into the game.

The Socceroos seem certain to field an unchanged line-up for a third straight game.

The cohesion and rhythm such continuity creates was palpable against Jordan.

So too the energy generated by the crowd. There should be at least 60,000 at ANZ Stadium on Tuesday night. They will come to celebrate Australia's World Cup qualification, but first they must help their team achieve it.

That Iraq have nothing to play for will not necessarily make them easier to beat. Unlike Jordan, the Iraqis will not have to open up and try to score. They can pack their defence and hang on grimly hoping to gain some kind of perverse consolation by thwarting the home team.

With a rousing performance, Australia have a wonderful chance of automatic qualification. Unfortunately, so far, they have nothing more.

10 comments so far

  • Yes, the Socceroos managed a win for our country but our team has matured to the extent that if you take away all the 'old stars' we may just mimic our cricket team when it comes to losing the quality players .......... and that is a worry.

    My team, Queens Park Rangers are the perfect example a team thrown together are a huge costs, to no avail .............. they have been relegated.

    Our Aussie team needs to upgrade many of the 'junior' players into the Australian side asap while we still have the 'old hands' around to pass on their knowledge and add their little bit of magic during game.

    Otherwise, we'll end up like QPR and our cricket team, either a rushed selection of players trying to gel together OR a team of kids still trying to cut their teeth whilst playing for this great country of ours.

    Either way, we will suffer for years to come.

    Commenter
    Old Kogarah Boy ..........
    Date and time
    June 12, 2013, 5:02PM
    • @Old Kogarah Boy... I think that you and even many football pundits might be a little surprised by our future Socceroos squads and there achievements. Keep an eye on the U 20's World Cup and what these lads achieve. In two warm up games in Europe they were beaten soundly by the Netherlands U 21's and drew with the Germany
      U 21's. It's worth noting that both these teams featured even older players than 21 (thus is the criteria for the competition) and both are playing today in European Cup Semi - finals.

      If you pluck 5-6 out of this team and in particular Adam Taggart and Curtis Good and couple them the smattering of standout Players between 20-25 playing both at home in the A-League and abroad like Tomas Rogic, Eli Babalj and Mustafa Amini and the likes of Sarota, Milligan, Kruse, Oar and quite a few others and the future is no where near as grim as many espouse. In fact it's the complete opposite.

      Watch team Socceroos squad for the East Asia Cup because many of the above will be there and many will also be in the squad if we do make it to Brazil. They may not all be starters but they will be blooded by being in camp and attending the tournament and ready for the next round of qualifiers. So let's keep of fingers crossed that we play like we did against Jordan and get home against Iraq and get to this WC and face what could be a golden future.

      Commenter
      nicholas
      Date and time
      June 13, 2013, 12:59AM
  • The 2006 team would have beaten the team from the other night about 4-0 i reckon. Don't know what the hoopla is about the "old magic".

    Commenter
    chelseaf
    Location
    tumba
    Date and time
    June 13, 2013, 7:56AM
    • "Barely a discordant note – with the exception of a group of supporters who had brought back from Japan that country's incredibly annoying drone. A T-shirt will do next time"

      Surely the writer is not complaining about Terrace Australis - A group of fans trying to support their heroes by being vocal, while saying the support the Japanese team received from their hokme crowd was bad?

      Pathetic.

      Why is it that people find vocal support annoying in this country? I can't stand going to atmosphere-free stadiums. This writer needs a reality check. Constant singing and chanting is exactly what the Socceroos need and I am sure it helped them to their 4-0 win on Tuesday night.

      Commenter
      Boing
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      June 13, 2013, 10:19AM
      • Totally agree, that part of the article really irked me. There is nothing worse than deadly silence until a goal is scored and then back to silence again. I went to the State of Origin game 1, Over 80,000 in attendance and there was noise at the kickoff and then immediate silence until the Blues scored then silence again till the next try.

        That's why I love Soccer, the constant noise and atmosphere, the crowd were a large reason why Wanderers games were such a hot ticket this year.

        In saying all that, if it's a choice between Silence and "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi" I begrudgingly take Silence!!!

        Commenter
        Wanimac
        Location
        Pyrmont
        Date and time
        June 13, 2013, 12:11PM
      • I have attended plenty of Premier League games live in the UK as well as cricket internationals, AFL, Rugby League and Union games.
        On the basis of those experiences, I have formed the view that soccer fans make a lot of noise for two reasons;
        1. Soccer is a low scoring sport and often boring for prolonged periods of time and singing/chanting keeps the fans interested. (I watched a Portsmouth vs Middleboro 0-0 draw in freezing cold in January years ago where there wasnt even a shot on goal.
        2. Soccer is more tribal than any other sport and attracts people for whom the tribal belonging/social aspect of the game are far more important than the match. In fact, I've seen english fans leading singing with their backs to the game for almost the entire match.

        People in Australia love sport and go to League, union, AFL and test cricket matches to have a beer and enjoy the spectacle on the field, not create one off the field.
        Many soccer fans, especially migrants from overseas might think that those crowds are boring , but I just think it's just more civilised.

        Commenter
        Big Noddy
        Location
        Glebe
        Date and time
        June 13, 2013, 2:10PM
      • @Big Noddy, are you serious? Constant noise makes a huge difference at getting a team over the line, it's not just to compensate for boredom. Every sport has its boring moments. Cricket has maiden overs, AFL matches are often over by half-time, tries are becoming rarer in rugby union and how interesting can it be to watch rugby league players bashing into each other 5 times apiece for no reward?

        Get out of your shell. Australians need to be more vocal at sporting fixtures. Create the atmosphere, don't expect it. As an VFL coach once said, "Don't think, don't hope, DO!" Ironically when it comes to generating atmosphere, only the fans of association football appear capable of following those words.

        Looking forward to having the Barmy Army drown out the home supporters come the Ashes next summer. Unless Australia wakes up of course!

        Commenter
        Pauly Falzoni
        Location
        Brisbane
        Date and time
        June 13, 2013, 8:57PM
    • I noticed that Japan only beat Iraq 1-0 and they barely scraped home scoring in the 89th minute. Does anyone know if they fielded a teams of second string players or are Iraq as strong as the score suggests. Comments?

      Commenter
      Magnus
      Location
      Abbotsford
      Date and time
      June 13, 2013, 1:35PM
      • Iraq have given Australia plenty of headaches in the past. Not in the least was that 3-1 drubbing in Bangkok during the 2007 Asian Nations Cup. Since then, it has been two 1-0 wins to Australia and one win to Iraq by the same score line. Iraq will not be an easy match.

        Commenter
        Pauly Falzoni
        Location
        Brisbane
        Date and time
        June 13, 2013, 9:08PM
      • Oh forgot to mention the 2-1 win to Australia last time around. It means we have not beaten Iraq by more than a goal in recent memory.

        Commenter
        Pauly Falzoni
        Location
        Brisbane
        Date and time
        June 13, 2013, 9:10PM

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