“I expected more from some of the younger guys”
This was the quote from Holger Osieck after Australia’s 2-2 draw with Oman in Sydney last night, in what was a crucial World Cup qualifier. The result was not what was expected of the Socceroos and leaves Australia in third spot in the group and with a lot of work to do if they to secure a spot in Brazil next year.
It strikes me as bemusing that the manager would lay blame at the younger players in the team for what was a below par performance from every one of Australia’s players. I was always taught to listen to the manager and carry out his instructions on the field so it’s rather confusing that despite all eleven players playing shockingly, the manager chose to single out his youth players.
I wonder which youth players he was talking about and well, it must be noted that there were only three “youth” players used. That’s right, three of the fifteen players were under the age of 25. Robbie Kruse and James Holland were the two young players in the starting eleven, who were given a go at impressing and producing the goods when Australia needed it most. Tommy Oar was the third youth player used in the match when he came on as a substitute for Mark Bresciano in the 76th minute.
In a bid to understand Holger’s sentiments, I decided to evaluate the three youth lads and find out where exactly our youth players went wrong.
James Holland - was brought off in the 53rd minute for Mark Bresciano. It’s fair to say that Holland did not have the best of games in the defensive midfield role. Unfortunately for Holland, he should not have been put in such a situation. Australia were in a must win situation at home and lined up with two defensive midfielders in Holland and Mile Jedinak.
This was a problem for Australia who lacked any attacking threat or options in the first half. With a lack of movement from the attacking players, Oman was happy to sit behind the ball and let Holland and Jedinak pass from side to side. With not many attacking options up front, Holland and Jedinak were left with a very difficult job in trying to create chances for Australia.
It was a tactical disaster as Australia was often forced to pass backwards on many occasions due to a lack of any attacking momentum coming from the forwards and attacking midfielders. Holger eventually rectified his tactical mistake in the second half, unfortunately at the expense of Holland.
Robbie Kruse – much to everyone’s surprise, Robbie Kruse was also brought off in the second half, at the 68th minute mark. A Holger favourite in Archie Thompson replaced him. Unlike Holland, Kruse had a much better game. Like all of the team he was quiet in the first half, unable to find many chances and get in to positions that would threaten the Oman goal.
He did show signs however when he went on a break down the left side of the field in the 26th minute, unfortunately he was unable to find a teammate and the chance came to nothing. Kruse came in to his own in the second half. He began to run at defenders and make runs off the ball that gave his teammates space and chances to create opportunities. Straight after Oman got their second, Kruse went on a run down the right, beat two defenders and won a corner for Australia. The German based youngster whipped in a perfect cross from the resulting corner on to the head of Tim Cahill for the equaliser.
It was a just deserved assist after his hard work in winning the corner. Kruse continued to cause troubles down the right and he showed great spacial awareness with a lovely lay off for Luke Wilkshire whose shot cannoned off the crossbar.
Kruse looked a dejected figure as he was subbed off, and rightly so. He was causing trouble down the right hand side of the field and his replacement, Archie Thompson, was not a natural right-sided player. Thompson failed to have any impact on the game, unlike another substitute, Tommy Oar.
Tommy Oar - was the third of the youth players that Holger seemed to expect more from. Oar was given 15 minutes to prove his worth and help salvage a point for Australia. He did exactly what was asked of him and was crucial in Brett Holman’s equalising goal.
Not afraid to run at players and take them on, Oar was on a mission down the left side of the field. Working well with Matt Mckay – who once again deserves to play higher up the field – to create chances and skim past the Omani defenders with ease, Oar was a new breath of life for Australia. In the 85th minute, he showed determination and desire to get to a 50/50 ball, chase it down and keep it in play, compose himself and find Brett Holman with a lovely pass. The result of that pass we all know ended with Holman scoring with a shot from about 20 yards out.
Holman will take the plaudits for the goal, but Oar did all the hard work and build up play resulting in the equaliser. After the game it was said that Oar did not start due to a knee injury. If that is true, it makes his effort all the more remarkable. Asked to play half fit by his manager he did, and helped set up the second Australia goal.
Holger may not be satisfied with the three youth players who played, but there was no need for a scathing public attack. He needs to address the situation in a more professional manner. Such actions have the potential to cause a rift between a manager, who is already unpopular with Australian fans, and the youth players who give their all for their country every game.
A manager should know when to accept blame and take responsibility, not leave it on those burdened with upholding a set expectation once he leaves. Everyone will rave about the goals scored by Cahill and Holman and how they rescued a point for Australia, but we only need to look at who created the chances, provided the cross, or never gave up on the ball to see who also deserves to get some plaudits.