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Brosque up front? Cornthwaite down back? Questions remain

by Ben Somerford on Feb 07, 2013

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I’m a believer that too often in Australia we get hung up on performances in friendlies but in the Socceroos’ first match in a huge 2013, where our 2014 World Cup qualification fate will be decided, there was plenty to ponder from Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to Romania.

With less than 50 days to go until the vital qualifier against Oman in Sydney, where both skipper Lucas Neill and Carl Valeri will be unavailable due to suspension, now’s the time for Holger Osieck to find solutions to the side’s problems.

And, despite an entertaining performance against the Romanians, there still remains many problem areas for the boys in green and gold.

The left-back position remains unsettled, along with the best options in central defence and central midfield. There’s also the dilemma of how to find a reliable attacking outlet, beyond Robbie Kruse’s moments of magic.

Indeed, Osieck praised Kruse again after the Romania game, but also was happy with Brett Holman who provided some attacking impetus, although that mostly came once the sting was out of the game.

For me, playing Alex Brosque up front is far from ideal, with the Al Ain striker anonymous in the first 45 minutes against Romania, before winning the penalty late in the half.

The other options include Scott McDonald, Eli Babalj, Archie Thompson and the constantly injured Joshua Kennedy. The shortage of quality in that department is a major concern for Australia going forward and a topic worth further investigation on other day.

Down the other end, Neill showed he is still a key player for the Roos in central defence on Wednesday, with Romania’s two late goals coming after his substitution. However, his suspension for Oman creates a conundrum.

Robbie Cornthwaite is the bolter, but ignoring his remarkable record of three goals in six international appearances, I’m not convinced he’s the answer. His strength is his aerial presence, while his positioning is okay, but he lacks speed and touch at the top level, which in the heat of a desperate World Cup qualifier could be badly exposed.

Rhys Williams was given a go in central defence off the bench against Romania and had a tough time. The Boro man can appear ungainly on the ball, but has many admirers in the UK. Unfortunately he’s yet to show that form in green and gold, for a variety of reasons from injury to bad luck.

He was caught out from a free-kick, offering a free header to Bogdan Stancu which Adam Federici brilliantly saved, but was then beaten to the near post by Stancu for the equaliser and gave away an unnecessary foul on the edge of the box which led to the winner. He’s one to persist with, but whether he’s ready now is the question.

I’m a huge fan of Matt Spiranovic but his move to Qatar has been counter-productive to his national team ambitions, while Sasa Ognenovski has battled injury lately. Ryan McGowan is someone who could step in at centre back, having produced some good displays for Australia off the bench, but mostly at right back so he’s unproven.

The reality is, who’ll make up the back two is a bit of a guessing game for Osieck, with no one really throwing their hand up. In these cases in the past, Osieck has gone with the tried and true.

As a result, who’ll take up the left back is another dilemma. Michael Zullo had a tough time against Romania, with all three goals coming down his flank. I was surprised Jason Davidson didn’t get a chance to impress.

As for defensive midfield - with Valeri suspended – James Holland has bolted into contention after a fine 18 months with Austria Wien. Holland’s performance against Romania won praise from Osieck, but with Mile Jedinak likely to be available again after an eye problem there’s no guarantees, but Holland is ahead of Mark Milligan in the pecking order now.

As per usual, there’s questions for Osieck to ponder ahead of another group of matches, but he’ll need to find the right answers this time, with those fixtures being vital World Cup qualifiers which could define whether his time in charge of the Socceroos has been a success or failure.