So you think you’re a Socceroo?
In case you missed it, episode 10 of Ange Postecoglou’s search for a football team was run last night at Craven Cottage in London.
The Socceroos got away with a squeaky 3-2 win over a fast finishing Saudi Arabia.
Heading in to the game Postecoglou was staring at an unprecedented 6th consecutive loss for the national team. No doubt the coach will be relieved he avoided that ignominious stat being stamped on his permanent record.
The win was anything but convincing. Then again, according to the coach, winning isn’t the main aim. Finding the right ensemble to take to the AFC Asian Cup which Australia is hosting in January is his mission.
To that end, Socceroos matches have looked more like auditions than football games as Postecoglou has given players an opportunity to press their claims.
Starting debuts for Swindon Town’s Massimo Luongo and Bailey Wright of Preston North End means Postecoglou has now given 29 different players a Socceroos start in the 10 games since he took the job as national coach.
This is a coach still in search of a football team, despite the perceived progress that was made at The World Cup in Brazil.
It’s little wonder then that the team has looked awkward and unsure of itself over the last week. On such shifting ground fluency is hard to find.
Scorched early by Belgium in Liege the Socceroos confused crude physicality for commitment and came off looking minor league.
Despite the early goals gifted to them by the Saudis in London, Postecoglou’s team were alarmingly shoddy in possession and distracted at the back.
Punished for their defensive mistakes throughout The World Cup, that pattern continued against Belgium and Saudi Arabia.
Jason Davidson fell into old habits in these games, giving away cheap possession deep in his own half and putting his rookie colleagues under enormous pressure.
Chris Herd has been given an opportunity in both games and has showed signs that he might challenge Ivan Franjic for the left back role.
Scratchy at times, his lack of recent football is a concern. Whether he is likely to see much action in an Aston Villa shirt prior to The Asian Cup might determine whether he plays or not at home in January.
The vitality and tempo that characterised The Socceroos eye catching displays against Chile and The Netherlands has been absent in these games. No doubt after settling on his preferred line up Postecoglou will get to work restoring the high energy work ethic he requires.
In Massimo Luongo he may have the player who can assist the artful but ageing Mark Bresciano in providing the ingenuity and vision in midfield that will be required if The Socceroos are to claim it’s first serious piece of silverware in January.
Tommy Oar is making a name for himself at Utrecht but he seems lost out wide on the left at the moment. No doubt he’s holding out for a hero in the centre of the park who might free him up.
Upfront, Tim Cahill continues to produce though The Socceroos are sorely in need of another marksman to carry the load. There is a risk that placing that burden on Robbie Kruse, who is returning from a long term knee injury, is a gamble the coach will just have to take.
One question though - where is Josh Kennedy?
Back playing in the J-League at Nagoya Grampus he’s surely part of Postecoglou’s plans.
Socceroos fans know that Postecoglou is undertaking a major renovation of the national team.
As their patience gives way to expectation ahead of The Asian Cup, the coach will know that when its showtime, he and his cast will need to deliver.