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Posted by Paddy Higgs on 06/14/2010

The manner of the Socceroos' 4-0 defeat to Germany has left their fans crestfallen but, as Paddy Higgs writes, it has not come totally unexpected.

THE signs have been there for some time, but were papered over for many by hope, optimism and blind faith.

But there can be no doubt as to the Socceroos’ shortcomings after their opening 4-0 loss to Germany.

The Germans will play more countries off the pitch before the tournament is over, but the Australian side’s inadequacies dominated the headlines back home.

Former goalkeeper Mark Bosnich said it best after the game; Australian fans don’t mind if their side is beaten, but to do so in such a manner is unforgiveable.

Unforgiveable, yes. Surprising? Maybe not.

Under Pim Verbeek, the Socceroos have not put a wholly convincing performance together since last August’s 3-1 win over Ireland.
Over 900 minutes have been played since then.

Verbeek kept the faith throughout, putting his focus on an ability to shut teams down and eke out hard-fought victories.
His side had little chance to do that against the Germans.

Surprise starter Richard Garcia’s goal-bound effort was blocked in the third minute in Durban in what was to be the closest his side would come.

Most disappointing for the Dutch coach would be the performance of his defence.
Full-backs Luke Wilkshire and Scott Chipperfield had appeared to add reliability to the Socceroos back four when they were re-installed during the pre-Cup friendlies, but they were handed a torrid night by Phillip Lahm, Thomas Muller and Lukas Podolski.

Centrally, Lucas Neill and Craig Moore were exposed for pace and appeared more intent to argue with correct off-side calls than worry about the threat around goal of Podolski, Mezut Ozil and Miroslav Klose.

But while his back four’s performance was hardly his doing, questions over Verbeek’s starting 11 – as Bosnich again duly noted – must be raised.
Joshua Kennedy had started the previous two games for the Socceroos but was consigned to the bench, with Cahill asked to play as a lone striker.

It sent a clear message to the Germans; we’re here for a draw.

It also rendered Cahill – Australia’s most important player – virtually useless.
His frustration had clearly overflowed when he lunged at Bastian Schweinsteiger on 56 minutes.
Incorrect call it may have been, but it summed up a maddening evening for the Everton man.

The selection of Garcia over Mark Bresciano was another curious one. He, like Cahill, was asked to play out of position.
Brave on the left side of midfield and then pushed forward, the job of unlocking Germany was nonetheless above the Hull City winger.

So why were Bresciano and Harry Kewell – two players capable of creating chances and scoring the odd goal – left wondering on the bench?
The former had been heavily involved in the pre-Cup friendlies, while Kewell has trained fully for a week now.
Both have battled injury concerns, they were considered fit enough to take their places among the substitutes.
With Saturday’s game against Ghana now rendered a must-win, surely both could have benefited from a 20-minute spell against the Germans.
Instead, defensive midfielder Mile Jedinak and striker Nikita Rukavytsya were handed runouts.

It will be intriguing to see how Verbeek will approach the game against the Black Stars. History suggests the Dutchman is unlikely to tweak his tried and now tired formation.

He has potentially just two more games in charge of the Socceroos before his contract expires and he departs for a post with the Morocco FA.

It’s conceivable that – unless Australia’s performances improve – Verbeek might not have had a job to return to anyway.

The manner of the loss to Germany came as a crushing blow for those who had found themselves swept up in the excitement of the World Cup.

But for those in Australia who have ardently followed the Socceroos, it was an ‘I told you so’ of the bitterest kind.


Posted by Dave on 06/14/2010

Its so frustrating to have hopes that are just dashed by poor tactics. Well said with we can cop it on the chin if we just aren't good enough, but Pim owes us a few answers

Posted by Ricardo Salgado on 06/14/2010

Great Article Paddy!! There´s one thing that i can spot in this Australian Team. Lack of Sparkle...

Posted by sam on 06/14/2010

Pim let us down this morning, theres nothing else to it. He embarassed a sport proud country in 90 mins. After little achieved at the helm of Australia, im glad he's on the way out.

Posted by Adam on 06/14/2010

Excellent analysis. The game this morning demonstrated exactly the doubts all us Socceroo followers - as opposed to the bandwagon jumpers - have had about for Pim so long. Thank God he's off, but what damage he's done.

Posted by Nik on 06/14/2010

An insightful price that would pit Craig fosters analysis to shame.
I do believe it is a formation that can work when executed by the right players, but seeing as torres, villa and inieasta don't have green passports then we need to play within our limits. One thing that dissapointed me was for a team that credits itself on defence, that is something that we lacked. No pressure, no intensity, no pace. When playing someone technically better then your fitness and work rate must be greater then That of your opposition. I still have hope for the next two games, but it must be a massive turnaround, if anyone can do it, we can....

Posted by Ricko on 06/15/2010

Good points.
Going with one striker was just a dumb idea. The Aussies had to much bolder than that.

Posted by claire on 06/15/2010

If we lose with a well selected team then we can accept it, but to be in trouble even before getting on the ground due to confusing selection is hard to swallow

Posted by mal on 06/15/2010

Australia could have done better with an Aussie coach, who, unlike Pim would understand our attitude which is to have a go no matter the opposition as we have shown in most competitions.Get some fight and put two up front despite Pim.

Posted by Paul on 06/15/2010

Its time Craig Moore never plays another game for Australia as he is a liability. Lucas Neill is finished. Scott Chipperfield has seen his best. They have a crack but they are no good. When teams like New Zealand score against us and the USA gave us a touch up its no suprise we got hammered by the Germans. Defence is a rabble. Midfield is just there and strikers we have really no one with class. Scott Mcdonald though he never scored at least had a crack and i thought played okay. Kennedy and Mcdonald up front. Bring back Hiddink

Posted by Jesse_Wray on 06/16/2010

Verbeek’s formation, selection and tactics pretty much had us on the back foot even before the first kick. To change from his constant 4-2-3-1 to an untried 4-4-2 without recognised strikers (Pim must have forgotten Cahill failed miserably up front against Japan last year) just 30 MINS BEFORE KICKOFF (according to reports), would have destroyed the mentality of the players. The doubts in the players' minds would have been huge, which almost guaranteed we wouldn’t get a result.
Also, almost every time the ball came down Germany's right flank Moore quite rightfully shuffled across closer to Chippers to close down the space, but Neill didn't follow him across. This left a big gap that Germany abused time and time again.
And finally, why did we persist with such a high defensive line intent on playing the offside trap? Verbeek, Neill, Moore, etc should have realised early on that Germany were thumping our defence through pace and well-timed runs. But they just kept stepping up too high.

Posted by Arthur on 06/16/2010

So much for Pim Verbeek's dismissal of the A-League, look at New Zealand's performance with so many A-League players in their squad! His refusal to pick a more balanced squad with some younger players who play competitively every week has backfired badly with a midfield & defence that looked old, slow and confused.

The only player who could hold his head up high was Brett Emerton, who never stopped trying the whole game.

Let's hope that something can be salvaged from the remaining 2 games and that Pim has the guts to make some changes to the starting line-up that need to be made.

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Paddy Higgs is a sports journalist and editor in Melbourne, Australia. He has contributed to a range of football magazines and websites, having followed the Socceroos from their years of World Cup heartbreak to the side's coming of age in 2006 and its bid to become an Asian powerhouse.

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