Strike Now!

by Ashley Morrison on Mar 14, 2012

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It is very sad news that Australia will not be represented at the London Olympic Football tournament either by the men’s or the women’s team. Many will say this is a sign of things to come, that Australia’s football stocks are waning.

It has been said that Aurelio Vidmar didn’t manage to get the best out of his charges, and quite simply they were not good enough, and that is most probably the case. There was, however, one aspect to their qualifying that should have alarm bells ringing, the fact that they failed to score in any game up until the dream of qualification ended.

There are many coaches that will tell you goal scoring is an art. It cannot be taught. Some players have in-built ability to make the right runs at the right time.

Yes, as a coach you can work on aspects such as shielding the ball, balance and the finer art of shooting, but most successful strikers have a natural sense as to where the goals are and where to place the ball. In some cases, that natural ability has been coached out of talented players simply because they play on instinct rather than sticking to a set formation.

The concern is many talented young strikers who have come through elite coaching programs in Australia, do not know where to run while others have, as mentioned, been over coached and no longer have faith in their own natural talent.

Some who have been given A-League opportunities have not been helped to improve their game, and have returned to state league’s no better than when they left.

South Africa, a nation blessed with natural strikers found itself faced with the same problem at the World Cup two years ago. The Bafana Bafana simply could not make the opportunities that they created count; exactly the same was true of the Olyroos, and that is not a coach’s fault. South Africa’s league is full of strikers from other parts of Africa.

If we look to the future we must look at the A-League where we will also see that a large number of the strikers are in fact the visa players. If the A-League is to be the springboard to playing overseas – which it is likely to always be – home-grown strikers are going to get few opportunities.

Out of the top twelve goal-scorers this season only five are Australian, and how many are out-and-out strikers? Ryan Grifiths has nine goals, Mitch Nicholls and Harry Kewell eight each, while Matt Simon and Eli Babalj have seven apiece.

Australia must be aware of this trend now as it could end up causing headaches down the track. As the Olyroos have shown this year, a failure to find the back of the net can cause you to miss out on major tournaments. With so much riding on the Socceroos continually qualifying for the World Cup, it would be foolish to ignore the fact that our striking stocks are not what they were, even at state league level.