Where has the good old Aussie spirit gone?

After watching the Socceroos take-on Indonesia, I was left to wonder: Where has the good old Aussie spirit gone?  I have been a close-follower of the national team’s international performances for over two decades and recall a number of teams with less natural talent display a whole lot more commitment.

Perhaps, it’s the value of the green and gold shirt.  It appears its symbolic value has been lost on the predominantly Gen Y crop of Australians.  I am not criticising the methods in which they train, their loyalty to the national league or their desire to represent Australia, it’s what they do when they put on that shirt that I’m debating.

I am questioning the spirit within which governs the individual.  Who, amongst a group of talented A-League-based players, was ever going to take it upon themselves to go out and win the game last night?

I know the squad was assembled in haste and there was not much preparation but I’m talking about ticker.  The kind Johnny Warren, Charlie Yankos, John Kosmina, Paul Wade and Ned Zelic had.

When your team is in need of your best effort, you bring it.  Look at Tim Cahill at Everton this season.  Here’s a guy playing out of position and scoring goals to win games for his team.  Why?  Because he has an internal drive to be personally accountable for his team regardless of the opponent, in fact, the harder the challenge the better.

Where was Archie Thompson or Danny Allsopp last night?  Aren’t they the country’s best strike-partnership?  I am waiting to see when Thompson will finally live-up to his name for the national team.

The cynical faction of the media will write how difficult playing in Asia is, the mysterious and daunting frontier of football.  Let’s face facts, Indonesia is ranked 144th in the world – 115 places below Australia – and 0-0 is all we can do.  Maybe Graham Arnold’s presence on the bench jinxed us.

We’ve come a long way, and don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting for a minute that we sacrifice tactical nous for regressive physicality.  But, I want to see my country, our country, play football and win, damn it!

Tell me you didn’t think the game was boring, even with the biased commentary (I press mute when Robbie Slater speaks, especially when he talks tactics).  Tell me you didn’t think we could’ve won the game.  Tell me our players aren’t better than theirs.  If you do, I’ll call you a name or two.

The trend of A-League-based flops is starting to worry me.  Our national coaching structure has finally improved to an internationally-competitive level; as a nation Australia is becoming more professional through the work of Football Federation Australia; our national league has now established itself and looking toward growth.  But, without our European-based stars we look mighty ordinary.

On 13 October 1982, we played Indonesia in Singapore and won 2-0.  Socceroos striker and now Perth Glory Coach, David Mitchell, scored a double.  The starting line-up read: Martyn Crook, Alan Davidson, Steve Blair, Tony Henderson, Alan Niven, George Christopoulos, Gary Byrne, Peter Raskopoulos, David Mitchell, John Kosmina and Charlie Egan.  Know these guys?  They beat Thailand 4-0, three days earlier.

One could argue that for both nations’ football has changed, but let’s not give these Asian minnows too much respect.  Let’s not have the mentality that they are better than us.  The team of 1982 gave no one respect; they crashed and bashed their way through many tough matches.

Don’t forget, the objective is to qualify for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, not show our friends from the north how conservative we are by passing the ball around for 90 minutes to no avail.  We need to score or at least have the intent to do so with greater conviction.

I want to see better movement off-the-ball, more communication on the pitch, the formation of triangles and diamonds in build-up play, confident finishing, and above all else, heart.  That’s my man and he’s not getting past me.  That’s my ball and I’m going to be first to it.  That’s my chance and I’m scoring.  Keep it simple.  Why?  Because, that’s the Aussie spirit; that’s the way we play.  I want to win and I want my country to progress.  Leadership, accountability and desire need a revisit.

Motivation and attitude is everything in football.  The technical standard and level of fitness is marginal nowadays.  Thankfully, due to better training principles, advanced tactical methods and the money to fund resources made available in the game, we have bridged the gap, at least with our Asian neighbours.  Japan and South Korea are admittedly the superpowers in Asia, but I will not accept that our A-League-based players can not compete and win against a country like Indonesia.

Look at how well Adelaide United did in the Asian Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup during 2008, we have proved that our own can achieve great things in Asia.  The reason why the boys who played last night did not win was out of fear.  Fear of losing, fear of public shame, fear of making a mistake under the faithful-eye of Coach, Pim Verbeek, who is hoping you don’t embarrass him because he believes in you.

I want to see a strong and confident team with their arms raised and clapping to the cheers of the travelling Green & Gold Army.  I want the best players from our best A-League sides rising to meet the challenges of international football.  I want to be entertained when I watch the national team.  I want to not only qualify for the Asian Cup but to win it.  I don’t want much, but I want it all.

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