Thursday, 14 August 2008

The Olyroos: Where was the Magic?

Nearpost Host Russ Gibbs asks the question.....

The Olyroos: Where was the Magic?

By Russ Gibbs

So, that’s that then. After building it up for several months in advance the Australian Olympic team have bowed out of the Beijing Games with barely a whimper having picked up a solitary point from their three group matches.

In an admittedly testing group a 1-1 draw with Serbia, and back-to-back 0-1 defeats to both Argentina and the Ivory Coast was scant reward from a campaign that supposedly promised much. But, in reality, did it?

The selection of the squad was the bane of contention for many with the omission of Bruce Djite and Nathan Burns remarkable, even more so considering the abject display put in by the forwards actually sent to China. It reached ludicrous proportions when Archie Thompson was ruled out of the final group game through injury and an SOS had to be sent to Central Coast Lightening target man Matt Simon.

Okay, you can’t legislate for injuries, but surely selecting more than two recognised out-and-out forwards in the squad would have been a good start. However, the stark truth is that this Australian squad simply did not have the talent in the final third to worry most teams.

The Olyroos showed ample grit and determination and flooded the defence whenever the opposition had possession, harrying and closing down and generally making a nuisance of themselves in the fine Australian tradition. The Socceroos showed similar qualities in the World Cup and the Asian Championships with moderate success. The question is though what did they do when they had the ball? Not a lot is the answer.

Too often hopeful long balls from the back were comfortably dealt with and returned with a vengeance. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for the heroics of goalkeeper Adam Federici all three matches could have ended in heavy defeats.

Where was the spark of creativity in midfield? Where was the moment of magic in the attacking third? Sadly absent and with no clue as to when and how it can be found. Thinking back on the three matches you can barely remember Australia having a shot on goal, let alone testing the opposition goalkeeper.

In the first game Serbia dominated and the Olyroos got lucky through a scrappy Ruben Zadkovich strike. Against Argentina the South Americans shot-stopper was a mere spectator and, in the crunch tie with the Ivory Coast, there was hardly a meaningful effort on goal.

How can this be rectified? There appears to be a real lack of natural finishers throughout the A-League with teams happy for their main strikers to drop deep and help create rather than ply their trade around the penalty box, as Damien Mori did to deadly effect for many years. And further back the midfield maestro we all crave to carve open locked defences is also a rare breed.

The onus thus is on the coaches to create two-footed players who are comfortable in possession and composed when presented with a chance in front of goal. A player of the calibre of Nick Carle would have been a massive boost to Australian chances of medalling at the Games. As it is we are left with few positive memories of a tournament that could have provided a rare glimpse of international success.

One final note: it was refreshing to sit through ninety minutes of Olympic football with no breaks as SBS showed LIVE the Australia v Ivory Coast clash. David Basheer did a good job with the commentary and the coverage was a credit to the station. Compare that to the hodge-podge job that Prime (Channel Seven) are dishing up.

For everyone’s sake Channel Seven here’s some tips:
1. Pick a Sport (anyone will do for starter).
2. Show it to its conclusion (not half an event here and we’ll come back to that later after more swimming).
3. Employ commentators who know the sport and can talk meaningfully about it.
4. Don’t go for an advert when an event is running – try natural breaks they do exist!
5. Remember that you are not covering rugby union.
Hopefully, that will help……..


Anonymous said...

enjoyed the post mortem

got some questions ...

was there magic during the qualifying stages? i was following the quals at a distance ... so don`t know if the performance of the olyroos pre-tournament was above what we got in the finals. espnsoccernet had us pegged as the 13th most interesting / dangerous team in the finals. that sounds about right to me.

also, burns, djite and vidosic. and williams. how was their performance during qualifying? are they the composed finishers in front of goal we were missing? possibly robbie kruse looks the most composed in front of goal out of the available players. except he gets knocked over a lot, and plays on the right ...

and could graham arnold sound more annoying? hmmm, perhaps if he talked more. any time i hear his sound bites, its just... grrrr.


ps. i feel sorry for nikolai. he`s trying to play full back ... but is he one? agree about the need to build basic skills other countries in the region have, such as 2 footedness.

ZildjianFighter said...

Where was the Magic?

David Williams = an out and out striker who can punish off either foot.

“He’s a striker; he’s quick, fearless and two-footed. He’s probably the quickest player I have ever worked with – he’s lightning-fast.” - Ange Postecoglou (Australian Joeys U20's coach)

have a search on youtube for his goals with Brondby.
There's definitely Magic.

ps. i also agree that burns, djite & kruse all should be in there. I just think williams has the natural "magic" you're looking for