Pim has no ‘Plan B’

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The Socceroos were comprehensively outplayed by the United States at Ruimsig Stadium last night (AEST).  The 3-1 result would suggest the Americans were two goals better than the Aussies.  In fact, it could have been a mauling by half-time had it not been for a bit of bad luck and the Jabulani ball hoodoo.  The Socceroos were sloppy, sluggish and not even close to the 90 per cent that coach, Pim Verbeek had promised.

Verbeek has done well to qualify Australia through Asia for the first time in history.  Credit for that.  He has a pretty damn good defensive record too.  Again, full credit to him.  But his overly cautious style of play is one-dimensional to put it mildly.  The counter-attacking 4-2-3-1 system is what some might label, anti-football.  When played well, it can be quite effective.  Think, Liverpool and Inter in Europe.

I have watched every Socceroos match under the stewardship of this pragmatic Dutchman.  I have not really seen much variation at all.  Football Federation Australia have implemented what they call the 1-4-3-3 formation rationale to outline how to play new football.  Trouble is, I haven’t seen much correlation.

It is blatantly obvious that Pim does not have the confidence in the team to let the boys play.  Why not have one holding midfielder and two ahead (Chelsea play this way) instead of two and one?

If Vince Grella has an off game – which he did against the USA – then the Socceroos are in serious trouble in the centre of the park.  Vinnie has had an injury-plagued season at Blackburn Rovers and is experiencing a real lack of form.  His hardheaded approach to tackles is also alarming.  What Grella did to Leo Bertos against New Zealand was disgraceful.  He wasn’t much better against Denmark either.  There is no such thing as a friendly, is there Vinnie?

I get a real sense of the players having to motivate themselves to get up against their opponents.  Verbeek’s leadership is somewhat laissez-faire compared to the authoritarian, Guus Hiddink.  I personally believe a bit of fear can go a long way in coaching.

Mourinho, Capello, Ferguson and Trapattoni to name a few, are prime examples of strong leadership.  They are great man-managers who build a bunker mentality, it is ‘us vs. them’ and I’ll die fighting with you.

Verbeek has no ‘Plan B’.  No backup plan if the midfield battle is lost.  No other options when Josh Kennedy is not the target-man he wants him to be.  There is a distinct absence of width and so on.  I have heard numerous times that the Socceroos have never really played good ‘football’ and that it makes sense to play to your strengths.  Well, I disagree with the former.

The Socceroos played at their highest level ever, witnessed in Germany during the Finals in 2006.  Most of the squad is the same, somewhat older, but with the right man in charge it can be done again.

I have been a big supporter of Verbeek because I believed he should be given the chance to show himself as being more than just a career assistant coach.  His CV would suggest he is more qualified than anyone in Australia to do the job but his shortsighted view may cost the Socceroos come their Group D opener against Germany.

For all the doubt I have, I also have some optimism that with a bit of luck the Socceroos could spring a surprise or two and get out of the group.  Verbeek remains confident despite losing his last warm-up match.  He talks of creating chances, staying organised, being patient and concentrated.

Verbeek could have three games left in charge, let’s hope it is at least four.  He knows very well that he will only be judged and remembered for what he does in South Africa.  Maybe he does not care, he is off to Morocco for his next adventure post-World Cup.  Whatever the case, his work for Australia really begins now.


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