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Will Holger give the kids a chance when it counts?

by Ben Somerford on Nov 15, 2012

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Let's be honest. That was far from South Korea's best line-up. But then again, it wasn't Australia's either. And those second-string Socceroos managed a victory away to a nation who pride themselves on winning on home turf, having lost only once in their past 27 home games.

Then again, it wasn't the result which was the most pleasing thing. It was about the individual performances of new players given a go in the set-up and many impressed. For the team to have managed a 2-1 win against the Koreans among all that, makes it a pretty good night all round for Socceroos fans.

There will be many talking points for fans to debate, however the central theme will be who impressed enough to warrant more of a chance when the World Cup qualifiers resume in March.

As Holger Osieck soberingly said after Wednesday's win, the qualifiers are of a “different calibre”.

Nonetheless, the German conceded he was “surprised” at how well some of the new faces acquitted themselves, pointing out Ryan McGowan, Michael Thwaite, Robbie Cornthwaite, James Holland and Tommy Oar as those who particularly caught his attention. Whether that means they'll be thrown at the deep end on March 26 at ANZ Stadium against Oman is a completely separate question.

And for most of the supporters, the fleeting performances of debutants Aziz Behich, Tomas Rogic, Eli Babalj and Mathew Leckie will naturally draw a lot of attention.

However, somewhat symptomatically of our youth selection policy in recent times, it was a player who has had to bide his time in the national team set-up for the past few years who really shone in Nikita Rukavytsya and he's a player who is capable of breaking into that starting line-up on a flank given his pace.

The FSV Mainz man got Australia's equaliser with a neat finish and seemed to grow in confidence after the breakthrough strike. Rukavytsya almost created a goal on the hour mark when he broke into the box and invented a vicious cutback which unfortunately no one had gambled on.

One of the question marks about Rukavytsya is his consistency within a game, but having broke his international duck, he seemed more willing to get involved on Wednesday. We know all about his pace and he seems to have worked on his touch on his right foot (note his control for his goal).

Austria Wien midfielder Holland was another to catch the eye, with many forumites even floating him as the man of the match. Holland is vying with Carl Valeri, Mile Jedinak, Neil Kilkenny and perhaps even Mark Bresciano and Matt McKay for a role in central midfield and did his cause no harm.

With the benefit of regular game-time this season, Holland grew into the game. It must be noted, the intensity did drop off in the second half and the game opened up, allowing Holland more time on the ball, but he threaded some wonderful passes, particularly with the outside of his boot.

For a player who has been so highly regarded in Australia youth team set-ups, many fans finally got a glimpse of what all the fuss is about.

McGowan looks the good too, showing great poise late in the game, while Oar laid off the assist for Rukavytsya's goal and had some good touches, but a few wayward passes too. However, when the Utrecht man got on the ball, he looked dangerous and caused the Korean defenders to back-pedal and looks a player ready to fully burst into the Socceroos side.

It was curious to hear Osieck's comments about matchwinner Cornthwaite and Thwaite with both appearing out of their depth at times. Cornthwaite's marking for Lee Dong-Gook's opener was “David Carney Asian Cup final-esque”.

Alex Brosque was another who seemed to struggle (perhaps due to his move to the weaker UAE Pro-League?), with Babalj enacting nostalgic memories of Mark Viduka with his hold-up play and neat touches in the V-Bomber's famous number nine shirt. It shouldn't be ignored that Babalj was a shade of paint away from the winner and all the headlines.

Finally one other discussion-worthy topic, is Osieck's persistence with giving Mark Schwarzer full games in these friendlies, rather than blooding a youngster such as Mat Ryan or Mitch Langerak or even long-serving deputy Adam Federici.

Of Australia's four friendlies this calendar year – against Korea, Lebanon, Scotland and Denmark – Schwarzer has played all but 45 minutes, which is staggering given his retirement is not far away and the five obvious next-in-line goalkeepers have a combined 13 caps between them.

Surely, these guys need a taste of international football and an opportunity to get familiar with the Aussie defence, for when Schwarzer does retire or, heaven forbid, he ever got injured.

Whatever the case, there was plenty of other lessons learned on Wednesday. Whether they will acted upon by Osieck in four months time remains to be seen.