March 30, 2016

Horse 2092 - Kruse Control Advances Australia

Australia 5 - Jordan 1
Cahill 25'
Mooy 39'
Cahill 44'
Rogic 53'
Luongo 69'
Deeb 89'

Australia moved one step closer to World Cup Qualification with a resounding 5-1 win over Jordan last night; which kept them atop Group B and means that they will be a seeded team going into the next round.
The opening goal came in the 25th minute when Robbie Kruse penetrated deep into Jordanian territory, cut a pass through the back four and Tim Cahill tapped the ball into the goal from just outside the six yard box.
Fourteen minutes later, Kruse again supplied a ball for Aaron Mooy by running through the defence and turning it outwards to Mooy with what appeared to be an unsighted pass. Mooy duly took one step, looked up, gave himself another step and shot the ball past the keeper, from the left hand side to just inside the opposite post.
One minute before the end of regulation time in the first half, Kruse again became the provider when he made run down the left hand side of the pitch and turned in a lofted cross, which Tim Cahill headed into the goal.
After the half time break, the one way traffic resumed and as Australia continued to push, there was a defensive log jam and Tom Rogic virtually passed the ball into the goal from eight yards away.

At 4-0 down and with no real hope of getting anything from the match, Jordan ceased to maintain their discipline and their defence descended into farce. Perhaps in response to Kruse supplying the passes for the first three goals, in the 65th minute, Rawashdeh Yousef made a challenge on Kruse that can at best be called cynical and at worst assault. Yousef went in with both legs airborne into the calves of Kruse; and I think that it would be hard to argue that his intent was anything other than a deliberate attempt to hurt Kruse. There was certainly zero likelihood that he'd win the ball in the challenge. If I'd been the referee, I'd had given Yousef his marching orders but the referee could only find a yellow card.

Australia found a new sense of urgency and following a short period of camping inside the 18 yard box, they were awarded a throw in. On the end of a confused and frantic couple of seconds, Massimo Luongo who had only recently come on as a substitute, scored Australia's fifth goal in the 69th minute.

From here on in tiredness gradually began to take over and even though Baha' Faisal brought down Tim Cahill in the 77th minute, Bailey Wright took out Mustafa Baha in the 80th minute and both incidents saw yellow cards being issued, the free kicks which followed, provided no goals.
Yousef again became the villain when he tripped up Chris Ikonomidis but even though this probably should have been adjudicated to be his second cardable offence, he got away with only conceding a free kick.

Tom Rogic went flailing into Ibrahim Al-Zawahreh with a clumsy challenge in the 89th minute which should have made him see yellow as well but again the referee was reluctant to pull out a card of any colour.
Jordan did finally get a consolation goal in the 89th minute when Abdallah Deeb fired a brilliant strike past the goal keeper Matt Ryan; which marked the first time in almost 400 minutes of football when an Australian keeper was even required to make a save and the first time that anyone had scored a goal against Australia since October last year.

With a result of 5-1, Australia can't really say that they were tested all that much but there are still things which can be learned from this.
Firstly that Australia plays better when it pushes forward. One of the simplest things to keep track of as a fan who is watching from the other side of a television screen is how many times the ball enters the 18 yard box. Australia dominated on this statistic by 51-18. Now admittedly it doesn't say how efficient the play is, or even what a side does with the ball once they get it up there but it does give an indication of how aggressive a team actually is, as well as the obvious information about where the ball spent most of its time.

One thing that I didn't like about the Australian attack last night was the lack of variety of attack. It was almost as if there was some sort of operations and procedures manual which dictated that the ball should be taken to the edges of the 18 yard box and turned in from about 12 yards away from the goal line. The 5-1 score disguises the fact that this can be tactically worked out and if a system becomes regular enough, then any manager who is looking at match footage from previous fixtures, should be able to design a set of defensive strategies to counter it.
Australia which played a 4-3-3 formation, looked strong while pressing but also looked somewhat vulnerable at the back once the midfield had been cleared. Even though Australia topped Group B with seven wins from eight matches, their resolve and skill will be more thoroughly tested in the next round when they meet stiffer opposition like South Korea, Japan and surprise package Thailand who topped their group.

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