Victory trouble for Pim

Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

At approximately 4pm last Saturday afternoon Pim Verbeek’s experimental Socceroos played what was to be a tactically planned trial-run against A-League side, Melbourne Victory at the Telstra Dome.  Verbeek selected Ante Covic, Adam Griffiths, Craig Moore, Rodrigo Vargas, Michael Thwaite, Jacob Burns, Kevin Muscat, James Troisi, Travis Dodd, Joel Griffiths and John Aloisi to start the match, with an air of optimism.

The Melbourne side had been asked to play in the style Verbeek believes his Qatari opponents will adopt on Wednesday evening to ensure the match was as real as possible.  So the scene was set for a carefully orchestrated dress rehearsal and an opportunity to put on a good show for the coach watching up in the stands.

Instead it was Melbourne who surprisingly got off to a better start with attacking-midfielder, Adrian Caceres, scoring after just five minutes on the clock.  What?  That’s not supposed to happen!  All reports coming from those who were in attendance agree that the first half was disappointing to say the least from the Socceroos.  Since Verbeek landed in the country he has had an unsettling affect on the potential Socceroo candidates, such is the pressure of international football selection.

I can only imagine the players would have been embarrassed with their output.  It doesn’t say much for the quality of players in the A-League when they spend a week in camp with the Dutch boss and aren’t able to adopt a new system.  It just proves that our home-based players lack a high level of game sense and technical ability.  So at the half-time break it was 1-0 to Melbourne and a dressing-down for the Socceroos courtesy of Verbeek.

Verbeek understandably made personnel changes for the second-half.  The line-up was Danny Vukovic, Adam Griffiths, Jade North, Mark Milligan, Michael Thwaite, Simon Colosimo, Jacob Burns, Mark Bridge, Tom Pondeljak, Alex Brosque and Archie Thompson.  It took a disastrous error from Melbourne defender, Daniel Piorkowski, to gift Thompson a goal on the 72 minute mark, and that’s how it ended, 1-1.  The Socceroos found it difficult to break down a Melbourne side that was obviously used to playing together and amongst familiar surroundings.

I, like many long-serving Socceroos fans, get sick of the doubt.  The question marks that make you worry about our international future and our national development.  Verbeek’s mind must have been racing after the match.  His conversations with Australia’s National Technical Director and fellow Dutchman, Rob Baan, during and after the match would have been very interesting to hear.  Four days away from his first match in charge of the Australian national team and so many questions still unanswered.

The Socceroos 1-1 draw with Melbourne highlighted one major issue: our A-League Clubs differing styles of play have hurt our national development.  Socceroo defender, Rodrigo Vargas, reiterated that fact after the match when asked why the Socceroos struggled to adopt Verbeek’s tactical system.  So in come the overseas-based stars to boost our chances of victory and a prayer that the team picked to start against Qatar will gel.  Not ideal preparation!

I am equally excited and nervous in anticipation of our opening 2010 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match.  Qatar will be looking for at least a point in Melbourne – we need our best available team out there to get off to a good start.  Verbeek will be announcing his 18-man squad just prior to kick-off which will include the likes of Mark Schwarzer, Lucas Neill, Brett Emerton, Tim Cahill, Mark Bresciano, Jason Culina, Luke Wilkshire, Carl Valeri, David Carney, Scott McDonald and Josh Kennedy.

I think Craig Moore is the only A-League player to be guaranteed a starting spot.  Moore’s European and World Cup experience will be necessary to keep order and show leadership in defence.  There is no doubt that Qatar will play nine men behind the ball and counter-attack with their speed a constant threat.  Will our jetlagged legion of players be alert enough to deal with such a problem?  Pedigree and experience should ensure they rise to the occasion.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008 is a special day for me, it’s also my birthday!  All I want for a present is a Socceroos victory, it’s not a huge ask.  The Telstra Dome should be a cauldron, the sea of green and gold should strike fear into the minds of the Qatari players and send chilling thoughts back into the memory of their Uruguayan coach, Jorge Fossati.

Verbeek has stressed the importance of winning our home qualifying matches, laying down a challenge to the players, and insisting on good organisation.  It will be interesting to watch how he deals with pressure in the moment.  I will be glued to the match for the full 90 minutes!

Australian’s all over the country have embraced football.  Now the Socceroos are back on home soil to do it all again and take us on another World Cup journey.  If we qualify it will be our third time and our first in succession.  I can hear the crowd, see the atmosphere and feel the passionate in my body.

Verbeek has some concerns and there is not a lot of time for perfectionism.  Just win the game Pim!  All of the preparation, note-taking, coaching, analysis, phone calls, sleepless nights, frustrating media questions and unavoidable self-doubt will all be worth it once our tickets are booked on a flight to South Africa in 2010.  Until then there is, work, work and more work to be done.  Please Pim, don’t let us down.  We have faith in you.  Go the Socceroos!

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