Three burning questions: Chinese Taipei v Socceroos

by Ben Somerford on Oct 15, 2019

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The Socceroos have flown out of the blocks in early 2022 World Cup qualifying but they can take a strangehold on Group B with victory in Chinese Taipei on Tuesday night.

Then again, that’s no shock in this second round of AFC qualifying. The only surprise so far has been Jordan’s inability to beat Kuwait.

But that’s handed Australia the opportunity to lock in pole position with another big victory.

More pertinently for Socceroos fans, Tuesday’s qualifier offers us another look at the evolving side following some disappointment at their display against Nepal, despite the emphatic scoreline.

Coach Graham Arnold will be thinking the same, so expect personnel changes.

Chinese Taipei, ranked 129th in the world, were in Pot Three for the group draw, so you'd think they should be tougher than Nepal. And playing away is always an added challenge, so expect more intensity.

But all Socceroos fans will also be expecting a comfortable win. So can the team deliver, or will there be more unrest after an ‘unsatisfactory’ performance?

GGArmy’s Ben Somerford asks three burning questions ahead of the clash in Kiaohsiung.

Who starts?
As I said, Arnold will make some changes to the starting XI. He’ll want to see more players in action and the level of opposition means he can tinker. Plus given the travel to Australia and then East Asia and the timing of these matches, one quarter of the way through the European season, he’ll offer up some rest to key players.

One of those is likely to be skipper Mark Milligan, who is now 34 and only recently overcame an injury. Perhaps Austria-based Jimmy Jeggo will be afforded another opportunity in his role. I find it hard to believe but there’s been talk Jamie Maclaren may lose his spot despite his hat-trick for Adam Taggart. I’m not convinced by that given form and Maclaren’s recent workload but there is an argument for it, which I'll get to. Craig Goodwin dropping out  for Awer Mabil seems more logical to me but I'm no coach!

Milos Degenek should return to the centre of defence for either Harry Souttar or Bailey Wright while I’d personally love to see Brad Smith get a shot at left-back instead of Aziz Behich.

Will we win easy?
Hah! It’s disrespectful but it is the question everyone is asking at the water cooler, so I’ve got to address it. Make no mistake, Australia should comfortably account for Chinese Taipei, who are 85 spots below the Socceroos on the FIFA Rankings. Yep, it’s an away game and yep, they’re stronger than Nepal on paper, but Australia has far stronger pedigree than Chinese Taipei.

The bulk of the Chinese Taipei squad plays in their homeland, except a few in Hong Kong and one or two elsewhere. Their star is Chen Po-liang who has forged a career in the Chinese Super League, while there’s also Oxford-born Norway-based midfielder Will Donkin who’s still only 18.

Worth noting, Nepal actually won 2-0 away to Chinese Taipei earlier in qualifying. I think that fact will settle any nerves.

With goals up for grabs, should Maclaren or Taggart start?
As I wrote in the previous Burning Questions yarn ahead of the Nepal clash, international goals are a rare commodity so dining out whenever possible is great for confidence and belief. It also gets the monkey off the back, which Maclaren will feel after quadrupling his international goal tally against Nepal. I’d hate to see a player dropped after a hat-trick but there is an interesting argument to be had.

Taggart is the alternative option. I should clarify, I don’t believe they could start together in Arnold’s current system, so it’s one or the other.

Taggart has been banging in the goals in the K-League this season. He has 16 strikes to date, but notably he’s not scored since mid-August. That’s eight games at club level, so the goals have dried up and he’s not in the red hot form he had in June, July and August. But 16 goals is a compelling return and playing Chinese Taipei might be the perfect opponent to get back on the scoresheet. Surely the confidence is still there after 16 goals?

Perhaps he’s questioning himself at international level. He hasn’t scored for Australia in more than six years (he has three international goals, two ironically against Chinese Taipei). He’s only recently won his Socceroos place back and is finding his feet again in the green and gold.

A goal or three may do him the world of good, and suddenly with Maclaren feeling great, Arnold may have two happy strikers feeling comfortable at international level. Food for thought?