Making changes to the national team

The recent performances of the national team have led many to demand a change of manager, which ultimately happened at the weekend, but change shouldn’t end there. Australia are currently on track to have the oldest squad at next year’s showpiece, and in recent times have been found out for being what they are, too old and too slow. But what changes should be made? Who should stay and who should go, and what realistic options are out there?

As mentioned above, the current squad is just too old, with an increasingly unhealthy reliance on the golden generation of players to continue playing. In the current squad are 7 players aged 30 or older (Neill, Ognenovski (withdrew due to injury), Wilkshire, Bresciano, McKay, Cahill and Kennedy), and that doesn’t include Schwarzer and Thompson who were rested. If you want to change the parameters slightly, there are still 6 players from 2006 in this most recent squad, only one of which is under the age of 30 (Milligan). Again add in the rested Schwarzer and Thompson and that’s 8 of 23 from the 2006 World Cup squad still playing 8 years later. Age isn’t everything of course and there’s still credence in the ‘if you perform you deserve to keep the shirt’ argument, but the performances haven’t been there in some time for a bunch of them, and as great as they’ve been, it’s time for a change. As Simon Hill famously said in his commentary after the Italian loss in the round of 16 ‘Australian Football has new heroes, and a new generation has new goals to exceed’. It’s time for that new generation, but who consists the new generation, and which players are ready to step into the void now?

Goalkeeper:
Starting with the goalkeepers, and this is one area where Australian Football has forever been able to find a solution. Going way back to the days of Jim Fraser and Ron Corry, or in more recent times when we had Mark Schwarzer, Zeljko Kalac and Mark Bosnich all at the top of the European game. The current generation aren’t doing too badly for themselves either, with Mitch Langerak playing Champions League football for Borussia Dortmund and Mat Ryan excelling for Belgian heavyweights Club Brugge. Both of these are ready for the #1 jersey, although it might be beneficial for Langerak to get more than the odd game here and there.

In addition to Langerak and Ryan, there’s also Adam Federici playing in the Championship for Reading, although he’s seemingly on the outer atm. There’s also Eugene Galekovic from Adelaide and Nathan Coe from Melbourne Victory who have been solid performers in the A-League and the national team when called upon, and in the case of Galekovic, the Asian Champions League. There’s also the argument of keeping Schwarzer on purely as an experienced backup to help along the likes of Ryan and Langerak, however his willingness to accept such role is unlikely.

Goalkeeping contenders: Ryan, Langerak, Galekovic.

Right Back:
In recent times, Luke Wilkshire has had a mortgage on the right back position, with some stellar plays over the last decade, he however, like a few others has seen his best days and he’s began to be more and more exposed for his declining pace in recent times. The fact Holger played Holland at RB over Wilkshire on Saturday says all that needs to be said; change is needed.

So who could fill the void? In truth, their aren’t many solutions, and there certainly isn’t an obvious option. Ryan McGowan has been the deputy in the squad in recent times and after experience with Hearts and Shandong Luneng would be the front runner out there. The way he was discarded and essentially blamed for the Brazil debacle was a disgrace and he should have been apart of this most recent squad.

Besides McGowan the only options are in the A-League with Ivan Franjic being the most popular and best option, despite having recently being moved into the midfield by Mike Mulvey. Others who might be in the frame are Sydney FC’s Pedj Bojic who has had 4 stellar seasons with the Mariners, and young Jason Geria who put in assured performances in the recent u/20 World Cup and has won the RB spot at the Victory since his departure from the Roar NYL setup. This is one position where change is an absolute necessity, however there are very few options. For mine McGowan just gets the nod over Franjic.

Right Back contenders: McGowan, Franjic, Geria.

Left Back:
If right back was a problematic position, left back has been even worse, with a string of makeshift options paraded out over the last decade. The fact that Holger plumped for Carney after playing just 6 games for New York after 18 months out of the game speaks volumes for our problems there, and his management of the position.

Neither McKay nor Carney are the answer, so who is? Well the best candidate is young Jason Davidson who had a debut to forget against Scotland in 2012. He is however a regular starter for Heracles in the Eredivise and I think he’s ready to play. The other option who should be considered is Shane Lowry who is now a regular for Milwall in the Championship since he dropped down from Aston Villa for more regular game time. Aziz Behich and Michael Zullo who’ve returned to the A-League on loan for the season for game time, and solid performances could see them get into the squad.

Left Back contenders: Davidson, Lowry, Zullo.

Central Defenders:
In recent times we’ve tried a host of options at centre back with varying success, however Osieck kept reverting back to the Neill-Ognenovski combination, which is widely accepted as being too old and too slow. Lucas himself has been tried with various partners recently, however it is he who is causing the problems as he like Wilkshire has lost that yard of pace and agility. The plan in recent times has always been to have Lucas in the side for experience, while playing a young more athletic player next to him, but recent times have shown that might no longer be an appropriate strategy. So who is there to play in the heart of defence?

Rhys Williams got his chance against France at the weekend and despite the team conceding 6 did a decent job. Despite only intermittent Socceroos appearances, he’s got the experience now as captain of Middlesbrough and many full European seasons under his belt. As for who should play next to him; there’s a few options out there with North, Djulbic, Thwaite, Smith who’ve all had their chances, but in truth time has probably passed them by despite all being solid defenders. There are 3 other options however, two obvious and two slightly left field.

The first of those is Matt Spiranovic who was given a regular run of games in 2011-12 and did a reasonable job before falling out of favour after move to the Middle East. He’s recently returned to the A-League with Western Sydney and a big season in the domestic competition along with the Champions League could parachute him back into contention. The other conventional option is young Trent Sainsbury who has got rave reviews for his work in the Mariners Championship winning team, which lead to interest from Basel and Southampton amongst others. Alex Wilkinson has also done exceptionally well across in Korea this season, appearing in many ‘dream teams’ throughout the season might also be worth a look.

Outside of those two there is one other option which is slightly unconventional and means moving one of the sides standout performers into a new position. Im referring to moving Mile Jedinak back into the heart of defence from his central midfield role. For mine he’s strong enough and good enough in his defensive work and experienced enough to play the role, and it would allow for other players such as Milligan and James Holland to claim spots further up the park. Whatever the new manager does, the defence is the first thing which he must alter to get the side back functioning well.

Central Defender Contenders: Williams, Spiranovic, Sainsbury, Jedinak.

Central Midfielders:
There are pressing issues here as well, with Jedinak holding down one spot in the middle alongside the aging Bresciano. Despite entering the mid-thirties Bresc has been an important creative link in the heart of the midfield, but he’s slowing down and seems unable to perform at the highest level these days, especially in a defensive sense. For mine there’s still a role for Bresciano in the squad, however it’s more as a creative link off the bench than a regular starter. Jedinak meanwhile has done his job reasonably well, he’s limited going forward but he’s capable of breaking up the play.

In addition to Jedinak, there are options like Austria Wien’s James Holland, who does a solid job in the middle of the park in the Champions League, Celtic’s on loan midfielder –at Kilmarnock- Jackson Irvine, who did a solid job in the recent u/20 World Cup, and Melbourne Victory’s captain Mark Milligan who has done a very good job when called upon. There’s also Aston Villa’s Chris Herd who has been called up in the past but hasn’t made his debut for various reasons.

In terms of more attacking options, Brett Holman is doing himself a massive disservice playing in the Middle East and for mine his form has been off in recent times for the Green and Gold. In terms of other options there’s Melbourne Victory’s Mitch Nichols, Sydney youngster Terry Antonis, Dortmund youngster Mustafa Amini, and Western Sydney’s Aaron Mooy. Matt McKay could also play a role in the short term in the middle of the park. The best option in a creative option however is offcourse Celtic’s Tom Rogic who unfortunately is only a bit part player for the Scottish giants.

Central Midfield Contenders: Jedinak, Holland, Milligan, Herd, Rogic.

Right Wingers:
This is one area where regeneration has occurred with Brett Emerton losing his place in 2011 to young flyer Robbie Kruse. Since then Emerton has returned home to the domestic league, while Kruse was a leading light for Fortuna Düsseldorf last year and earned a move to Champions League side Bayer Leverkusen. Also in Germany is Matthew Leckie, who has struggled to get into the Socceroos squad despite being a regular in Germany’s 2nd division. Other options could include Brisbane’s Ivan Franjic and Utrecht’s Adam Sarota- both of whom were shifted into right midfield roles last season at their respective clubs, and there’s also new FC Sion man Dario Vidosic who has the creativity to play both wide right and through the middle- although it’s clear he’s better through the middle for mine. There isn’t a great deal of options, but there are enough to choose from.

Right Wing Contenders: Kruse, Leckie, Vidosic, Sarota.

Left Wingers:
Like on the right hand side, the left side of attack looks strong with Tommy Oar winning the role after solid performances for Utrecht last season. Prior to that Matt McKay held the role through the Asian Cup and World Cup Qualifiers and did a serviceable job cutting inside providing a passing option. Other options include Frankfurt’s Nikita Rukavystya who has the pace and finishing to cause problems and Oliver Bozanic who is capable of playing a similar role to Matt McKay on the left hand side cutting inside. There’s also Melbourne youngster Connor Pain who made his debut in the East Asian Cup Finals in July- the youngster burst onto the scene last A-League season, and if he can follow that up with a second he could be a surprise inclusion to the squad.

Left Wing Contenders: Oar, Rukavystya, Bozanic.

Forwards:
This is another area where younger players haven’t been given much of a look in, with the preference being for experienced players like Tim Cahill, Josh Kennedy, Archie Thompson and Alex Brosque. Ideally, Cahill or Kennedy can still play a role off the bench for mine as a poacher, but neither should be in the starting line-up, and there’s only room for one imo, however as explained below due to a lack of options, we might have to persist with them.

The problem however is that there are very few options in order to play upfront and be certain they’re ready to play right now. There are some younger options however, with AZ Alkmaar’s Eli Babalj being the best of the bunch, he however hasn’t had a great deal of game time for his new Eredivise club. A-League duo Mitchell Duke and Adam Taggart have done well for Australia in East Asian Cup. This is a problem area for Australia however- there just aren’t many options out there to fill the void of Cahill and Kennedy right now.

Forwards contenders: Cahill, Kennedy, Babalj, Duke, Taggart

Since this is already insanely long, here’s a very quick summation of the options available to our national team right now by position and how imo the side should line up when everyone is available. As I mentioned above, the golden generation have been fantastic for Australian Football, but the time has come for a new generation to get there chance.

Goalkeeping contenders: Ryan, Langerak, Galekovic.
Right Back contenders: McGowan, Franjic, Geria.
Left Back contenders: Davidson, Lowry, Zullo.
Central Defender Contenders: Williams, Spiranovic, Sainsbury, Jedinak.
Central Midfield Contenders: Jedinak, Holland, Milligan, Herd, Rogic.
Right Wing Contenders: Kruse, Leckie, Vidosic, Sarota.
Left Wing Contenders: Oar, Rukavystya, Bozanic.
Forwards contenders: Cahill, Kennedy, Babalj, Duke, Taggart

1st team in gold, subs in blue (formation from football user)

1st team in gold, subs in blue (formation from football user)

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Franjic calls for #AngeIn for Socceroos

Via Marco Monteverde: Versatile right sided player Ivan Franjic has called for former Brisbane and now Melbourne boss Ange Postecoglou to take over as Socceroos boss from the sacked Holger Osieck. Franjic was disappointed to see the man who gave him his start in the national team go, but was in no doubt as to who should replace him.

“I’d like to see Ange (get the national job). He’s my old coach, and I believe he’s a good coach, so hopefully he gets the job.”

Franjic, 26, was signed for Brisbane by Frank Farina, however

(Marc Robertson- Courier Mail)

(Marc Robertson- Courier Mail)

he really came into his own under Postecoglou’s stewardship, becoming a fixture at right full-back in the back to back championship winning years. Last season he showed his versatility by playing further forward and he continued that on Sunday by playing in the middle of the park and scoring the winner.

Fans in Brisbane and further afield have been calling for Franjic to get more game time in the National Team setup and he got his chance in last years East Asian Cup Qualifiers. Solid performances in that competition and the latter rounds of the A-League lead to his inclusion in the final WCQ squad, and the following East Asian Cup Finals in South Korea. With the looming regeneration upcoming, Franjic could be a vital part of that.


Holger gone, but the problems remain

After yet another abject and insipid performance this morning against France, Socceroos boss Holger Osieck has been sacked. FFA CEO David Gallop has launched an immediate review of the teams

Gone (Getty Images: David Rogers)

Gone (Getty Images: David Rogers)

performances in the latter phase of the 2014 World Cup Qualifying campaign, while Assistant Coach Aurelio Vidmar will take over in an interim basis. Removing Osieck from the job however only fixes one of the sides problems, and I wrote about why he had to go after the Brazil game. The problems this morning were endless and across the entire side, with only Langerak putting in anything resembling an impressive performance, and that was after he conceded 6 goals. The problems this morning in a nutshell were:

-Completely incapable of keeping the ball under pressure.
-Too slow in the transition from defence to attack. Preferring to play across the defence and the midfield, rather than play the ball forward.
-Playing players out of position (e.g. Holland, Carney)
-Incapable of getting the ball into attacking positions
-Defensive organisation, and defending in general
-Lack of confidence throughout the squad both in themselves and seemingly the coach.
-Failure to regenerate the side

Some of the individual performances this morning were abject to say the very least, particularly in the defence once again. I’ll give James Holland a pass despite being torn apart by Ribery; he’s not a full back. Neill however was poor to say the least and Mark Bosnich’s FT summation that a lot of the defensive problems are related to the veteran isn’t far off the mark. On the left Carney was awful as well, although there were some decent signs from Williams and HT substitute Jason Davidson. In midfield Jedinak worked hard but in a defensive capacity Bresciano is a huge liability. In order to keep him in the side, there needs to be either a change in role for the veteran, or a change in formation. McKay worked hard but was largely unsighted cutting inside on the right, while Wilkshire offered little help to the French bombardment down the right side of our defence. Upfront Kruse and Cahill were quite, but what do you expect when you cant get the ball.

All of these are not new problems and have been discussed ad nauseam, so I won’t go through all of. Again id refer you to the above post about why Osiek needs to go. There has been a complete failure to regenerate the side ever since 2006, which leaves the national team relying on the golden generation whose best days are well behind them. All of that leads to the sort of performances that we’ve seen in recent times, and nobody should be surprised at his departure. Changing the coach however doesn’t automatically fix all of the above problems. The majority of them are long term problems and will need time to fix. For example, the fact that we’ve clung to the golden generation for too long isn’t going to be fixed purely on the back of a new coach.

While sections of the media will clamour for the likes of Tony Popovic, Ange Postecoglou or Graham Arnold to get the job, im expecting a more short term approach to be taken, especially if the FFA’s track record is anything to go by. The media will also continue to link former Socceroos boss Guus Hiddink to the role, especially after he showed a level of interest through his agent recently.

Things are definitely at a cross-road right now, with two directions available for the FFA. They could either decide to go with the short term expedient option in order to put in a solid showing at the World Cup next year then go fully into the rebuilding phase, or alternatively they could begin it now and build for the 2015 Asian Cup along with the Russia 2018 campaign which begins in just under 2 years. Here’s just a short list of those who could get a phone call in the coming days:

Guus Hiddink:
The bookies favourite for the job has already said through his agent that he intends to be at the 2014 World Cup, and would consider a return to the Socceroos setup. His agent Cees van Nieuwenhuizen has said that Hiddink definitely has plans to coach again at World Cup level and has fond memories of his time with Australia. Apparently he’s in France atm so I wonder if he was in the crowd last night.

Marcelo Bielsa:
The 58 year old Argentine has a host of experience at the highest level leading his homeland to the 2002 World Cup Finals before taking Chile to the last 16 in South Africa. He wanted to continue on after the 2010 showpiece in order to see out what he had as a 5 year plan with both the senior side and the u/20’s but left due to politics in the Chilean FA. From there he lead Athletic Bilbao to the Europa League final beating Manchester United, Schalke and Sporting Lisbon before losing the final to Athletico Madrid.

Gerard Houlier:
The 66 year old Frenchman has already reportedly been in contact with FFA in relation to the coaching position, however it’s understood they’re asking him for opinions on candidates. He would however make a solid coach with his extensive experience most notably with Liverpool.

A-League Options:
There has already been a clamour for the likes of Graham Arnold, Tony Popovic and Ange Postecoglou to get the job after their stellar coaching performances in the domestic league. Arnold has Socceroos coaching experience, however the most likely of the trio would be the 2 time champion Postecoglou. Any of these would likely indicate a longer term strategy building more for the home Asian Cup in 2015 and the 2018 WC in Russia. Of the 3 I would say that Ange and Arnold are the more likely, with the younger Popovic more likely to stick to club football in the immediate future.

This is unquestionably the most pivotal decision in relation to the Socceroos since 2005 when Frank Lowy bit the bullet and replaced Frank Farina with Guus Hiddink. 8 years later there’s a drastic need for change, starting with the coaching position and then a revamped playing squad. With the World Cup around the corner along with a home Asian Cup a little over a year away, coupled with the overdue need to regenerate the team, the FFA must absolutely get this decision right.


Official: McKay to miss round 1, possibly round 2

Via FFA: National boss Holger Osiek has today selected his national squad for the upcoming friendlies against France in Paris and Canada in London. Below is the 24 man preliminary squad:

Goalkeepers: Mitch Langerak (Borussia Dortmund, Mat Ryan (Club Brugge).
Defenders: David Carney (New York Red Bulls), Jason Davidson (Heracles), Lucas Neill (Omiya Ardijia), Sasa Ognenovski (Umm Salal), Luke Wilkshire (Dinamo Moscow), Rhys Williams (Middlesbrough).
Midfielders: Oliver Bozanic (Luzern), Mark Bresciano (Al-Gharafa) , James Holland (Austria Vien), Brett Holman (Al Nasr), Jackson Irvine (Celtic), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Matt McKay (Brisbane Roar), Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory), Tom Rogic (Celtic), Dario Vidosic (Sion).
Forwards: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Josh Kennedy (Nagoya Grampus), Robbie Kruse (Bayer Leverkusen), Matthew Leckie (Frankfurt), Tommy Oar (Utrecht), Nikita Rukavystya (Frankfurt).

As has become customary there’s a strong Brisbane presence in the squad, with Matt McKay representing the club in the games. In addition to McKay, there’s a host of former Roar stars in the squad including Ognenovski, Vidosic, Kruse and Oar. Jade North and Ivan Franjic have been overlooked.

The squad features most of the names we’ve become accustomed to, however veteran #1 Mark Schwarzer has been left out of the squad- probably because he’s not playing regularly. There’s also a few uncapped an unfamiliar names in the squad with former Mariner Oliver Bozanic, Celtic and Australian u/20 midfielder Jackson Irvine and David Carney –back in action with New York Red Bulls after an 18 month sabbatical- all get their chance to impress.

From a Brisbane perspective, this means that the clubs Australian marquee player will definitely miss the opening round game against Wellington, and possibly the round 2 home opener against Sydney. Australia play Canada on October 16 in London, which makes the October 19 game against Sydney a long shot- something which Roar vice-chairman Chris Fong was furious at a couple of weeks ago.

Congratulations to Matty and all of the former players, hopefully they put on a far better showing than the recent thrashing in Brasilia.


Why Holger Osiek’s time has come

While this is primarily a blog about Brisbane Roar and 99.99% of the posts are on that subject, we all offcourse pay close attention to the state of the national team. In the aftermath of the recent friendly in Brasilia there has been a clamour for the national coach Holger Osiek to be replaced. Im of the opinion he should already have been replaced 12 months ago after the loss away to Jordan- but he’s still here and here we are. Were going to divide this up into 3 areas- results, performances and regeneration.

Part 1: Results
Results are offcourse what managers are primarily judged on, and in truth in this aspect at least Osiek has been successful for the most part. During his tenure he’s lead us to the Asian Cup Final for the first time, guided an inexperienced side to the East Asian Cup Finals, and also navigated a difficult World Cup qualifying campaign. For those requiring a refresher, here’s the results from the Holger Osiek era.

Results from the Holger Osiek era- 2010- current

Results from the Holger Osiek era- 2010- current

That equals a record from 43 matches of 23 wins, 10 draws and 10 losses, scoring 84 goals and conceding 41. Dig a little deeper however and you can see that the majority of his good results have either come in his first 18 months in charge, and/or against some of the lesser nations within the Asian confederation. If you just look at results against either the top Asian nations, or nations from other confederations you get a different picture.

Results from games against big Asian nations and other confederations: 2010-current

Results from games against big Asian nations and other confederations: 2010-current

So, of the 19 matches played either against the other top Asian nations, or nations from other confederations the Osiek lead Socceroos have won just 7 from 19 games- and 2 of those were against New Zealand and Wales. Against our biggest rivals in the Asian Confederation we’ve recorded just the one win from 7 games against them. Overall from a results standpoint you’d have to give him a tick, and say that he’s met the criteria laid out for him

Part 2: Performances
While managers are judged on results primarily, performances and how the team is playing also comes under sharp focus from both media ‘experts’ and fans alike and it has to be said the performances in recent times have been sub-standard.

Things started off reasonably well on this front with Osiek’s narrow 4-4-2 diamond formation leading to some solid showings in the Asian Cup and a impressive second half performance away to Germany leading to a famous win. Things however began to unravel from that point.

As we moved into the first phase of World Cup Qualifying the campaign started here in Brisbane with a positive result, but a performance that left many deflated and expecting more. With Kennedy and Cahill playing upfront together, the Australians resorted to long, hopeful crosses from Wilkshire more often than not, which lead to nothing. For the game 4 days later away to Saudi Arabia, Osiek brought Holman in from the left flank with McKay moving back into his left midfield role and Zullo at left back. The side looked far more balanced and the performance was one of the best in Osiek’s tenure.

Since then however the performances have headed downhill with a disappointing performance away to Oman leading to a loss in qualifying, before another loss away to Denmark just before the final round of qualifiers. That began again away to Oman, and despite it being 0-0, the Australians struggled to create anything. 4 days later at home to Japan, Brisbane had to scrap for a draw after going a goal down and being down to 10 men. The Japanese used their numerical advantage by played some impressive possession football leaving Australia to resort to long balls up the park to use the aerial threat of Cahill and the speed of Brosque- which due to the Japanese being incredibly suspect to the high ball, worked to some extent.

After a really awful showing away to Scotland in a friendly –particularly in a defensive sense- the qualifying campaign continued with away trips to Jordan and Iraq. Jordan thoroughly outclassed the Socceroos in a 2-1 win for the hosts, while it took a late fight back to prevent another loss to Iraq. It was at this point the media first began to question Osiek and the team’s performances, and imo it was the time to replace him. He stayed on, and after an East Asian Cup qualifying campaign that included an extremely poor performance in a 0-0 draw with North Korea, Australia took on Romania in Spain.

The Romanians showed quite clearly the gulf between the two sides, with the Australians exposed again in the defensive third and offering precious little going forward. Between this and the previous Scotland and South Korean friendlies, Osiek had decided that the next generation weren’t ready for action, despite not being given much of a chance to show their worth. Not ideal preparation for the final 4 qualifiers, which started at home to Oman. Having won just one game from four in the final round of qualifying, Australia desperately needed a win to get things back on track, instead they produced arguably their worst effort of the Osiek reign.

After some horrendous defending from Thwaite and Cornthwaite leading to the opening goal, Jedinak gifted the travelling Omani’s a 2-0 lead just after the halftime break. To be fair the fight back from then was impressive, but it doesn’t take away from the fact they were incredibly lucky to get out of it with even a draw- by most objective views, the Omanis were the better side and deserved the win.

That meant Australia had no room for error in the final 3 games away to Japan and home to Jordan and Iraq, and to Osiek’s credit these were the best performances in the last 18 months. The Japanese had all of the ball in Saitama, but they couldn’t find a way through until the death, while Australia tried to hit on the break through Kruse and Oar. The Jordan game was a solid display which left Australia 90 minutes from the World Cup, and up against a young and inexperienced Iraqi side. Despite that Australia struggled to break the visitors down and only booked their ticket to Rio late on with a Josh Kennedy header.

The most recent performances however have been extremely disappointing to say the least with an A-League select squad going to the East Asian Cup and being outclassed in all 3 games and coming home without a win. That brings us to the weekend and what was an insipid effort against Brazil which exposed each and every weakness in the Australian side- weaknesses which have been seemingly ignored over a long period of time by Osiek.

Part 3: Regeneration

This is where imo Osiek has failed and is the most culpable, because the side is hardly any different from the one he inherited back in August 2010. Schwarzer, Neill, Wilkshire, Bresciano, Cahill, Kennedy, Kewell, Holman and Thompson have been in the squad since 2006 and are still key contributors to the current squad nearly 8 years later. In addition to that promising youngsters from when he took over like Federici, Williams, Spiranovic, Troisi, Rukavystya, Kilkenny and Vidosic, who were meant to be apart of the current generation have largely been kept out of the squad. Some of that is due to poor performances and poor movements from players, but even still it’s a poor strike rate.

So which players have established themselves as regular Socceroos under the Osiek reign? The most prominent who fall into this category are Sasa Ognenovski and Matt McKay with the big Ogmonster holding down the central defensive berth alongside Lucas Neill, while McKay has been shifted from a left midfield role where he was performing well to the left back slot where he looks out of his depth. It’s only in more recent times that young flyer Tommy Oar has seen his solid performances for FC Utrecht rewarded with regular playing time. The outlier to all of this offcourse is Robbie Kruse who won the right sided role off Brett Emerton in the 2011 Asian Cup and has been in the side ever since, and is now benefiting with some solid showings in Junes qualifiers.

There has also been an alarming trend with out best players preferring to take the money on offer in the Middle East or China, as opposed to testing themselves at the highest level in Europe. Brett Holman for example has opted to move from Aston Villa to Abu Dhabi in the prime of his career. I have no problem with players opting to maximise their earnings from their careers- but if they choose that option they should no longer be automatic starters for the national team.

Just to wrap this up- lets just dot point the two most glaring failures in regenerating the squad.

Centre back: Rather than persist with Spiranovic, Williams or even give promising youngsters like Luke DeVere or Trent Sainsbury a chance- Osiek has persisted with the aging Neill and Ognenovski, with the error prone Robbie Cornthwaite jumping up the pecking order.

Left back: Despite younger options who are playing regularly in Europe like Jason Davidson and Shane Lowry being available, Osiek continues to persist with Matt McKay playing out of position in the role. Not only is it a poor option in a defensive sense, it also removed McKay from the middle and front third where he was performing well. To be fair, Oar has since gone on to make the left midfield spot his own, but left back is a specialist position, and McKay, while a solid footballer doesn’t fit the bill.

All of this leads to the fact that results aside, under Osiek performances have dropped as have the results and were left with basically the same side which performed with aplomb at the 2006 world cup and there is a fear the side could suffer heavy defeats in the showpiece next June. There’s also the important matter of the Asian Cup at home just 7 months later, and whenever you host a tournament you have a massive chance to wit it. But can the golden generation, who will all be 35 or older by then really rise to the top of Asian football then? I remain sceptical.

So who could a potential replacement be? Well the first two names that have drawn media attention are Ange Postecoglou and Guus Hiddink. For mine, I can’t see Hiddink returning to manage this current side, while Postecoglou would likely lead to drastic changes to personnel and tactics- something most fans would welcome. Others who could be considered and are worthy of a mention are former Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk, ex Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard and former English boss Sven Goran Eriksson. Any of those would provide a big name manager which would gain the respect of the players and the footballing world. There is still time to save the 2014 WC campaign, but the FFA must bite the bullet, and soon.


Brisbane and the National Team

The Socceroos are going to Brazil! A year from now Australia will compete in a 4th Word Cup, and a 3rd in succession, and both current and former Brisbane players have been crucial to qualifying with no less than 9 players in the squad. It’s not just at the Socceroos level however that Brisbane have been developing players for the national team, so lets take a look through Brisbane’s role in the recent success of the Australian National Teams.

Starting with the Socceroos, Brisbane’s presence in the squad has grown steadily over the past 12-18 months to the point where there was no less than 9 current or former player in the squad. Brosque, Ognenovski, Vidosic, McKay, Kruse, Zullo, Oar, Franjic and Jade North were apart of the recent squad that sealed qualification to Brazil 2014. In addition to that Mitch Nichols, Erik Paartalu and Adam Sarota have all either player or been apart of the extended squad in the World Cup campaign.

In terms of tournament squads, Brisbane had three former players at South Africa 2010, with Dario Vidosic, Craig Moore and Tommy Oar all either making the final 23, or being apart of the extended squad. Expect that number to be atleast doubled in 12 months time. The Asian Cup of 2011 also saw a distinct Brisbane flavour to the squad with the then club captain Matt McKay putting on some standout showings in the midfield. Kruse, Vidosic and Ognenovski all played their parts in the run to the final aswell.

It’s not just at the senior level though, with the U/20 World Cup kicking off in Turkey over the weekend, and Brisbane’s James Donachie will fly the flag for the Roar in a tournament which has seen many young emerging Brisbane players take part. He’ll be joined in Turkey by his former NYL teammate Jason Geria who’s since departed for Melbourne Victory. Through the years players like Danning, Oar and Acton (2011) and DeVere, Nichols, Oar and Minnieccon (2009) have all represented the Roar at the tournament. At Olyroos level Mitch Nichols was the captain for the ill-fated attempts to qualify for London 2012 and was joined at various times by Danning, Visconte, Redmayne DeVere and Fitzgerald, meanwhile in the Beijing 2008 campaign Vidosic, Zullo and Kruse all played a role in qualifying but were left out of the tournament when it came around.

It’s also important to point out it’s not just in the men’s game where Brisbane players are hogging the limelight in the international team, with the Matildas also having a strong Brisbane contingent lead by current captain of the women’s national team Clare Polkinghorne. The women recently played a two game series with New Zealand that saw 9 girls in the squad. (Polkinghorne, Carroll, Alleway, Popovic, Kellond-Knight, Butt, Chapman, Gorry and Gielnik). There were also 7 players in both the 2011 World Cup squad which reached the quarter finals, and the 2010 Asian Cup which they won on penalties in the final.

While other clubs have had their hand in the development of the players aswell down the years, it’s fantastic to see so many either current or former players in the national teams, and as we all look forward to booking our tickets to Rio, there could be more than a couple familiar faces in the squad as we take on the worlds best.


Brisbane’s dominance of the National team- a sign of things to come?

Since Holger Osiek took charge of the national side some 14 months ago now he has began to regenerate the national side with younger players and at the centre of it has been players with a connection to Brisbane Roar. Matt McKay, Sasa Ognenovski and Michael Zullo have become key players in the side, but they are by no means the only ones to get their chance.

 

Current and former players to play since South Africa 2010.

Sasa Ognenovski:

Since making his debut for the Socceroos in Cairo the big Ogmonster has been a steady contributor to the national team especially in this year’s Asian Cup where he alongside Lucas Neill marshalled the defence beautifully. In recent times he has began to be rotated slightly with Matt Spiranovic getting the odd game in his place.

Michael Zullo:

I have to be honest, when I saw him get carved open on Boxing Day 2009 down the coast I thought that was the end of the experiment, but Postecoglou stuck with it and it’s payed off for him now that he plays every week in the Eredivise. His best showing in the green and gold thus far was his masterful effort in Saudi Arabia, and he is now growing into the role.

Matt McKay:

Matt was not new to the Socceroos scene when Holger gave him his chance, in fact he made his debut 4 years earlier vs. Kuwait, but it was not til the Asian Cup in neighbouring Qatar where he really began to make his mark on the Socceroos, especially in the semi final vs. Uzbekistan. Since then the ex-captain has cemented his spot in the side with masterful performances down the left leading to his successes at the recent awards night.

 

Adam Sarota:

Despite the fact he can’t get a regular game for Utrecht, he has managed to win the favour of Holger and has been involved ever since the training camp in Germany in March. Now he needs to kick on and get some more playing time for club and country. Seems to be seen as a valuable member of the squad by Osiek which is a good thing.

Mitch Nichols:

Im sure everyone reading this is well aware of how much Mitch has improved and now his reward has come with a Socceroos call up. Of course he does have 1 cap already but he was very young then, perhaps to young. In addition to Socceroos call ups Nichols will also be a key part of the Olyroos campaign for London 2012.

Robbie Kruse:

Burst onto the scene for the Socceroos at the Asian Cup following some fantastic form the A-League and has been a regular ever since, but more than that he looks to be a goal scorer for the national team which will be needed going forward. His move to Fortuna Dusseldorf will do him no harm if he keeps playing.

Alex Brosque:

Was considered a bolter for the Asian Cup until injury, he eventually got his chance back here in Brisbane when he popped up with the winner against Thailand. Since then he has been a key member for Osiek off the bench and he stepped up vs. Malaysia with a well taken brace. Aparently he has been playing as a midfielder in Japan which is a bit strange

Luke DeVere:

He hasn’t cracked it yet, but he was apart of the squad for the opening two 2014 World Cup Qualifiers and the Wales friendly but he failed to get on the park for his debut, no doubt he will thou. His junior  international career includes the 2009 U/20 World cup and one would assume the
2012 London Olympic campaign.

Dario Vidosic:

Didn’t go to Qatar for the Asian Cup, Vidosic’s chances have been limited thus far under Osiek and hasn’t managed to force his way into the
squad since his move back to Australia, plenty of time to go thou, probably just needs to play more regularly. Dario obviously has the talent to get back in and the 2010 squad member will be thee in 2014 imo.

Tommy Oar:

He has had a taste of things in the full national team, but thus far most of his football has come in junior international tournaments, most recently the u/20 World Cup, and probably the Olyroos. He did however get a late call up to the Asian Cup squad for the injured Garcia, so he is on the radar.

Current Players with potential for 2014:

In addition to the above 10 players, there are also another 4 who appear to be knocking on the door of selection to the national side due to their fantastic form for Brisbane in the past 12 months. Holger is clearly looking at the A-League as shown by his national team training camp, and the below four were apart of that two day camp in Sydney.
Ivan Franjic:

Ivans rise to prominence is truly amazing given that 2 years ago he was only just getting an injury replacement contract and now he is by far and away the best right back in Australia. Franjic is another of the Brisbane players to make the recent national team training camp in Sydney. A move to Europe could be on the horizon fo the fullback.

 

Erik Paartalu:

Paartalu has played 2 games for the u/17 national team, but since then been frozen out- until 3 weeks ago when he was included in that 2 day training camp in Sydney. It seems like Erik is very close to selection now and the media ‘experts’ at Fox are beginning to call for him to be included and imo he would be perfect in the midfield.

Matt Smith:

A bolter for the captaincy and perhaps a bolter for national team selection for his adopted home as well but Holger decided to include him in his camp so clearly he is in contention for future squads. His for firstly for North Queensland and now  Brisbane has been supurb and is no question a good option for the national side.

Michael Theoklitos:

Theo did make a couple of the 2011 Asian Cup Qualifier squads under the Verbeek reign (Indonesia away and Kuwait home) but failed to get any game time. He also was in the 50 man preliminary squad for the 2011 AFC Asian cup named by Osiek and just 2 weeks ago was called into a squad of A-League players under consideration for future squads.

 

It has been absolutly fantastic seeing  Brisbane Roar begin to dominate the national team setup, and long may this continue with the above 4 playerts and I wouldnt be suprised if they made their debuts in the Saudi Arabian home game if its a dead rubber. In part 2 tommrow I’ll take a look at Brfc players futher away for the Socceroos, but making their mark at junior age groups.