June 12, 2013

Horse 1497 - One Step Left - To Glory or Oblivion...

4-0 is a result which by every account is a good one. However, the simple scoreline itself doesn't of itself tell the story. This was not a 4-0 won through precision or brute force, this was a 4-0 won on the back of growing confidence and perhaps is worth far more than either a game played with precision or brute force can deliver.

The opening 12 minutes were quite frankly dour. Neither Jordan or Australia looked like they had any sort of game plan at all. Australia would play the ball towards the centre of the park and hoof it forward, hoping to break the deadlock. Jordan looked at little more conservative but also were playing a contain and thump type of game. For the opening period it all just cancelled out, as both sides knew the significance of scoring first.

It was only after the initial flurry of nerves had fled, that Australia settled into playing a fairly simple sort of game. Making use of Robbie Kruse and Tommy Oar who penetrated deep into the corners, Australia's game mainly relied on controlling the ball to about 35 yards away, sending it wide and then spinning it back towards the 12 yard spot. This was basic 4-5-1 football, with the lone striker standing more of less at the top of the ring at the edge of the 18-yard box. Although it proved to be constantly effective, it also was immensely predictable, with Al-Bakhit and Mustafa Baha picking off the attacks down the flanks roughly 50% of the time and stopping them dead.
Bresciano's 15th minute goal came through a passage of play which was exactly this. And six minutes later, the advantage should have been doubled except that Tim Cahill couldn't pull a ball from behind him and sprayed it to the left of the goal post.
The rest of the half was tense, with both Jordan and Australia finding fluidity and stringing together runs of up to a dozen passes but neither of them found anything more from the half. 1-0 at half time was... meh. 1-0 at any level is never enough and the game was never going to be safe until a second was put away.

Archie Thompson came on for Tommy Oar on exactly the stroke of the hour and almost immediately the crowd erupted and the second goal came from Tim Cahill.
Cahill connected with a sweeping ball from Kruse who had run deep towards the goal line. Cahill then headed it with enough force which would have left an elephant wondering who'd pushed it over.
Thompson's actual immediate impact in terms of what he contributed was probably nil, but the fact that the other 10 players found an instant lift, proved the worthiness of the substitution. If Thompson's mere appearance didn't kill the game off then the goal did. From that point onwards, the Jordanians who had shown bursting pace and athleticism, slowed to a tired canter.

The third goal came after a run through the centre of the park and Robbie Kruse found himself in the right place at the right time; as the receiver rather than the contributor.
It was Lucas Neill's header in the dying moments which nicely placed the cherry on the cake. Neill who had made his debut for Australia in 1996 and being a defender had never scored for his nation in 91 appearances. Despite protestations by Adnan Adous for offside (who by virtue of standing directly in front of Neill was the reason he was still onside), Neill played a header which at any other place except inside the six yard box would have gone unnoticed.

What can Australia take away from this? Firstly that they do have the ability to kill off matches. Secondly that they need to think about trying a new set of tactics because 4-0 will have been enough to make potential competitors study the video. Thirdly, that Tim Cahill needs to learn to shut his mouth or face getting cards for gobbing off at referees. Fourthly, that a trip to Rio is within reach - the dream is crystallising; with one step to becoming reality.

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