Australia vs Ghana: “Tactics? Tactics?…I thought they were a type of mint!”…
So Ally Maclleod, manager of Scotland’s shambolic team in the 1978 World Cup, was reputed to have said.
But let’s remember that that Scotand did give us Archie Gemmil’s lovely solo goal, and celebratory sprint after, strands of hair streaming behind him, against Holland ( see Trainspotting).
What an interesting night of soccer, sort of…two “bipolar” performances from Serbia and Slovenia. Both did their best to lose after being in front. It was torture watching Serbia. Last week I describe the soocer they can play as “cerebral”. I think that is a thing of the past now. I don’t think those players need a coach, but a therapist to deal with the issues they have with winning!
And you have to admire Germany for how they tenacious they are in adversity. But the game also supports my thesis about the Australia game that it was not that Germany was so good, but that we were so bad. They weren’t helped last night by their “coach” taking off their two best players: Uzil and Muller. Uzil had just set up Podolski a couple of times and Muller always tried to be creative. Germany promptly went into a lull until the last few minutes after this coaching masterstroke.
The less said about England and their overrated cohort the better. There is not much to say, as they played hardly any soccer.
So, turning to Australia, it was a shambles against Germany. As i said, it wasn’t that Germany was so good, but that we were so bad. I think Pim panicked after the friendlies when he considered our manifest problems and weaknesses. And it was unpardonable to play an untested formation in such an important match.
But the reaction after the match has simply been hysterical. I’d like to single out Craig Foster, who has simply been ridiculous. To call for Pim’s sacking is just childish, especially when I never heard him raise any concerns with the team and its performances when they were getting “results”, and when, to me, our deficiencies were blatantly obvious. And secondly, to say that the players have no blame is egregiously sycophantic.
Furthermore, there has been a lot talk about tactics. Tactics in soccer only get you so far. Hence my reference to Ally Macleod.
They are necessary, but not sufficient. You have to “play”, that is defend strenuously and attack effectively. We patently did neither. This was our biggest problem. And our biggest skill and positional errors were basic and fundamental.
For example, we barely played two forward passes all match. Our defence was a sieve, especially in the middle. Schwarzer bears partial responsibility for the two first goals.
Our midfield did not provide any defensive cover. They didn’t mark or track their players back who were moving into offensive positions. For instances, who was marking Podolski on the first goal? Where was a right back, midfielder, winger, 4th ref, anyone. The cross to him was hit along the ground through our box! And we didn’t adjust the disposition of our players to counter their threats at all.
Playing Cahill as a lone striker was a bad tactical error. First, he doesn’t have the characteristics. Secondly, it is a very difficult formation to play and requires a lot of mobility of midfielders to make ii work. Otherwise the striker witll just be isolated.
Turning to the Ghana game, we have to learn from the Germany experience. These things happen and it is not irredeemable. And should be so for seasoned professionals. There is no point worrying about your last performance.
Ghana will be tough: fast, physical, skillful and creative. They will test us. And we have to go back to the basics that we just didn’t put into practice against Germany.
That is to “play”. First, to defend by working hard and marking tightly. Secondly, by being quick and creative in attack and being mobile in offering options for teamates with the ball.
Oh and the ball. My view is that free kicks need to be hit low. Then it could fly like a rocket. This seems to be Italy’s and Agentina’s ploy with it. A simple square pass giving the kicker a better angle past the wall. It seems to me that players are unable to spin the ball fast enough to curl and dip as much as players are used to.
I hope we can get a result. I can’t say that I “believe” it. But if we do, who knows which Serbia may turn up against us. Probably one of several.