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Back to the drawing board

by Tunna on Jun 28, 2018

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I must first make mention of the Peruvian support. They rose to the occasion and their players rewarded them with a convincing win. They sung the anthem with such gusto that it brought tears to their eyes and made my hairs (not my head) stand on end. They didn’t stop. They kept going and going throughout the match, in unison and you immediately got a sense that you were in the presence of a patriotic and passionate people.

Most importantly though, they were so friendly before the match and were humble in victory after it. It was a strange sight walking out of the Fischt stadium as droves of Peruvians were wearing Socceroos shirts they had swapped with Australians. Although Peru haven’t been at a World Cup in 34 years, they know the deal with scarf/shirt swapping post match. The parties continued into the night as Football took a back seat and two completely different cultures came together to share the unique experience .

Warning – The following may contain traces of ranting and sooky la la type behaviour.

As the dust settles on another Socceroos World Cup campaign, we sit with a cold Baltika, or shot of Vodka and ponder what might have been. The Russian adventure came to a crashing finale in Sochi when our boys were beaten 2-0 by Peru. The result in the end mattered little as France and Denmark played out a stalemate. This means that even if we had beat Peru, we would have still finished below Denmark in the groups standings. I think I actually would have felt worse had that happened.

Inevitably, everyone will have an opinion on this team and their achievements, or lack thereof in this tournament. Personally, my emotions have been mixed with concern and anger since the final whistle in Sochi, but they should probably have surfaced a lot earlier because the writing was certainly on the wall in both Kazan and Samara. I’m concerned because I don’t know where we’re headed as a Football nation, and anger because I am growing tired of the general apathy amongst some supporters and sections of the media that are ‘just happy we’re here’ and keep pushing the line of ‘we played well’.
Well, some aren’t just happy to be here and guess what?! We actually didn’t play well at all.

We’ve won 2 matches in the last 4 campaigns and apart from a glittering Asian Cup on home soil in 2015, we’ve had nothing to hang our hats on, or at least say that we’re on the improve as a Footballing nation. Yes, getting to a World Cup is an achievement in itself. I understand that but what are long term targets if that’s all we’re ever going to aim for?

When Bert was appointed for the World Cup, some viewed it for exactly what it was. A make shift deal until a long term replacement was found. The campaign has been exactly that… Make shift. We went from a team who pressed high up the park to one that sat off and allowed the opposition full backs an eternity on the ball. It feels in a sense that we didn’t really get to see our Socceroos in the last three matches. A team that for all its deficiencies under Ange at stages throughout the campaign was still able to do the job when it mattered. Oh, how I still wish Ange would have reconsidered his position and taken us to Russia. We would have scored a goal from open play that’s for sure.

Bert may as well have taken 15 players to Russia, because the rest were not even given a passing thought, including the pre tournament friendlies. He used the same three subs in the first and second matches, was forced to start Juric for the injured Nabbout in the third, and
Bert’s stubbornness to persist with two holding midfielders in games when we were on top and in need of a result was frustrating to watch. As was the option he had of playing Mass Luongo to add to our creative stocks and didn’t. Instead, he persisted with the change of Jackson Irvine. A player who is a good contributor but offers little at that point in the game apart from a fresh pair of legs.

In the end, we were simply not good enough. Whether it was due to Bert’s inability to make tactical changes before and during the matches, or because we went up against teams that were a class above, we never really looked like progressing through the group. We had a chance to redeem things in the third and final game, but it was much of the same for Bert and the way he set us up. He had a Plan A and nothing past that.

My rant isn’t all negative. There were a few good stories to come out of Russia 2018 for Australian Football. As mentioned previously, Sainsbury will be playing for a big club soon. I have no doubt about it. He’s become a rock at the back. Behich is the most improved player we’ve had in years. His move to Turkey has done wonders for him.

A new dawn is now upon us when Arnold takes the helm next month. Love him, hate him, or whether your views are indifferent, we’re stuck with him for now. We wait to see how this team shapes up before UAE 2018. Its now Back to the drawing board. New coach, new challenges.