Where to start? This loss to Jordan, where the performance labelled a ‘disaster’ by Holger Osieck, has left Australia with just 2 points from their first three games. Australia is also equal on points with Iraq and Oman on the bottom of the qualifying table for our group.
Jordan came into the game with four players missing – two due to suspensions carrying over from their 6-0 humiliation at the hands of Japan and two due to injuries. This left Jordan as even greater underdogs in the match. However, they received a boost when Hassan Abdel-Fattah recovered from a knock to take part in the match. Jordan set out in a 4-2-3-1 formation for this vital qualifier.
Jordan executed an effective game plan against a poor Australian side and deservedly got their win in-front of a capacity crowd in Amman. The intense pressing game from Jordan from the start of the match resulted in numerous turn-overs from Australia (I counted 56 in the match, just counting poor passes/touches) which gifted possession back to Jordan. Once Jordan scored their first goal, they sat noticeably deeper to soak up the expected attacks of Australia and looked to expose their lack of numbers in the centre of the pitch and counter attack – this tactic resulted in another goal for Jordan. Jordan looked a bit nervy to end the match, once Archie Thompson pulled a goal back, but held strong and recorded a hugely important win in their quest to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
Without taking away from Jordan’s effort in the match, it is important to look at where Australia went so wrong, in a match where they should (on rankings and reputation) be clear victors.
Use of the Ball and Directness of Attacks
In this game, Australia’s use of the football when in possession was especially poor. The game did not get off to a good start, with three turn-overs within the opening 17seconds. These were all as a result of aimless long passes. In this case, Lucas Neill (straight from the kick off without pressure), Luke Wilkshire (return pass from a throw in and had a simple passing option) and David Carney (again under no real pressure) were the culprits of giving the ball away by simply trying to play the ball direct.
I attempted to count turn overs and long balls from this match on second watch and this is what I came up with (I counted a turn-over as a misplaced pass or poor touch resulting in a loss of possession, not including any tackles):
56 times possession was turned over; twice in the defensive third, 25 times in the middle third and 29 times in the final third. Of these turn-overs, an incredible 37 were as a result of a long, direct pass (i.e. either the pass didn’t find the man or the resulting flick-on/attempted control went to a Jordan player)
64 times an Australian player played a long, direct pass; with the main culprits being:
- Wilkshire – 17
- Schwarzer – 12
- McKay – 9
- Neill – 7
- Jedinak – 6
In the match, only Sasa Ognenovski (substituted on 12mins), Tim Cahill, Brett Holman and Archie Thompson (a late substitute) did not attempt a long, direct pass.
Movement from Players when Australia has the Ball
This was an especially poor point to take away from the Australian performance. The movement of the players was static and lacked clear direction.
A mitigating factor for the players is that they do not spend a huge amount of time together. However, there were no visible movement patterns, combinations or third man runs present in this game. This should be a hugely worrying factor for Australian supporters.
There were multiple examples of poor (or non-existent) movement in situations where it should be a players first thought. I have isolated a few incidents:
In this series of passes (which resulted in a turn-over and a dangerous chance for Jordan) in the 27th minute, a lack of movement when playing out from the back left players without a passing option. Mark Schwarzer had the ball and played a simple pass to Spiranovic who had no direct pressure. From here, Spiranovic, who had no forward movement or movement from Neill (even though Spiranovic motioned multiple times for him to drop off to create an angle), held onto the ball for 4 (FOUR!!) seconds before finally passing to a jogging McKay. McKay then played a pass to David Carney but did not move – with only Brett Holman showing for a pass (but his ‘jog’ to receive the pass left him behind a defender). Carney then tried to lay it back to McKay but his pass was sloppy and Jordan broke forward.
In the same situation, simple coached movement patterns would have facilitated playing the ball out easily, as shown:
Here, the fullbacks stretch the pitch as wide as possible and the central defenders drop off on an angle for a short pass. This can result in two situations: a) the opposition forwards hold their position and the goalkeeper can play a simple short pass left or right; or b) the forwards push on to the central defenders which allows space in the middle of the pitch for a midfielder to drop in and receive a pass.
In this next situation, the lack of movement was disgraceful.
Here, when a throw in is played to the moving Cahill (33rd minute) no player breaks out of a walk (bar Robbie Kruse) and every player just moves approximately 2 metres forward. This means Cahill has no option but to run the ball into the corner and win a throw in.
From this resulting throw in more poor movement was highlighted.
The long throw in was cleared by the Jordan defence. Matthew Spiranovic stepped out from the back to cut the ball out but his pass left him facing the wrong way so he chose the smart and safe option of passing back to Lucas Neill, to maintain possession. After this pass, he moved out on a wide angle on the right sideline in a position to receive a pass again. Neill, however, produced a sloppy pass to McKay and was static. With McKay on the ball he now had two defenders pressing him so he simply kicked the ball long to nobody and possession was lost.
An identical situation could have allowed Australia to maintain possession, if a combination of two things happened – Neill created an angle to receive a pass and relieve the pressure from McKay and McKay himself remaining composed on the ball. This would have allowed a 1-2 to be played and the ball could have been switched to Spiranovic on the angle – from there Australia would have beaten the initial press from Jordan and maintained possession.
One final focus point on movement and calmness when in possession is with the conceding of the first goal.
Here, Spiranovic played the ball to Carney on the left but remained static. Carney, who was under pressure from both directions, attempted to play a ridiculous flicked pass to Holman (who was also under pressure) and the ball was turned over. One short pass, followed by a long switch and poor positional discipline by Luke Wilkshire left Australia outnumbered and moments later, Mile Jedinak conceded a penalty.
In the identical situation both more movement and composure would have enabled Australia to keep possession. Once Spiranovic played the pass to Carney he had to move to create a passing angle, from here a more composed touch from Carney would have allowed him to see he now had two passing options – backwards to Spiranovic or inside to McKay.
Defensive Shape and Tactical Ill-discipline
This is the final point of disappointment from an Australian point of view. The shape when defending was poor throughout the game and far too frequently players were caught out of position due to poor discipline (and possibly poor communication and coaching).
The first case was evident in the 3rd minute of the game:
Here our 4-4-1-1 formation (which allows for two banks of four in defensive positions) is non-existent with Wilkshire and Neill terribly exposed out of position (in Neill’s case he was far too deep and Wilkshere was ahead of two midfielders).
Also, in the 20th minute it was clear that the space between the first and last line was far too big.
Against a better team, Australia would have been exposed far more frequently.
And finally, for the second goal for Jordan, the positional ill-discipline was staggering.
In the first phase of the move, Carney played in McKay who burst from midfield. In this situation, Tim Cahill had to be aware that he needed to remain disciplined in a deeper position to cover, as Holman and Kruse were already making runs for the cross. Instead Cahill burst 35metres to get into the box (he had initially started in his own half). Also, Luke Wilkshire’s movement was baffling. From right fullback he broke inside looking to get to the edge of the box, leaving his man and his position. The cross was cleared and Jedinak attempted to win the ball when he shouldn’t have, leaving him out of position. A freeze frame of that situation showed Australia now in a 2-3-5 formation, with five players in the box. Jordan broke with lightening pace and doubled their lead.
Australia pulled one back but it was too late.
Osieck had every right to be disappointed to question the directness and sloppiness of his team; but an imperative factor in that statement is the fact that this is HIS team and he as a manager should be able to impose his ideas on how the team should be playing better than he has been.
He also suggested he would be making changes in future squads, but this can be argued that it should have happened long ago with the integration of youth.
Whatever Osieck decides to do before our next match against Iraq has the potential to end our qualification hopes (or conversely ensure they remain solid). The next match in a months’ time is a must win match for Australia, as a loss would see them with 2 points from four matches at the half way point of the final qualification stage.
Jordan’s performance cannot be understated – they thoroughly out played Australia and deserved the 3 points. Huge questions must be asked of Australia and their performance.