Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The future looks bright for Australia

Brett Holman celebrates his goal against Poland
Before the game Lucas Neill implored the next generation of Socceroos to seize their chance to impress new manager Holger Osieck.

A 2-1 win over Poland and impressive performances by goalkeeper Adam Federici and the man of the moment Brett Holman shows they were listening.

In case there was any doubt, the future is bright for the Socceroos.

Another young gun, Japan-based Matthew Spiranovic, impressed during his 90 minutes in the game against Switzerland which will have gone a long way to securing him a regular place alongside Lucas Neill for the foreseeable future.

Up front there still remains some issues however. Despite being given almost 180 minutes together, neither Cahill or McDonald managed to get on the scoresheet and save for the first half against Switzerland never really looked like a lethal combination.

Despite his amazing scoring record for Australia we must realise, and quickly, that Cahill is not a striker and shouldn’t be used as one.

The problem facing Cahill is that he now has a genuine challenger for his attacking midfield spot in Brett Holman. Just 6 months ago the suggestion of Holman replacing Cahill as Australia’s primary attacking midfielder would’ve seen someone admitted into a psychiatric ward.

Now, after contrasting 6-month periods, the idea doesn’t seem so absurd. Cahill struggled and looked disinterested during the World Cup warm up matches and his World Cup was destroyed by the red card against Germany. He did prove his class with a trademark headed goal against Serbia, however.

Brett Holman, on the other hand, has gone from whipping boy and poster child for the next generation of Socceroos.

A last minute winner against New Zealand at the MCG has proved the catalyst for a stunning run of form that has seen him score four goals in his last eight games after scoring just one in his first 28 games for the national team.

Holman was always valued by Pim Verbeek for his non-stop running and harassing in the final third, but was derided by the fans for his lack of goal scoring despite numerous golden opportunities. Now having added goal scoring to his game at international level he is a much more rounded, and valued (by all) player.

With a new manager in place and everyone starting from a clean slate, Holman will have drastically boosted his chances of a regular starting berth after his last two performances.

There are still problems for Osieck to solve though, most notably on the left.

Scott Chipperfield has left a big hole at LB and despite numerous chances, David Carney doesn’t appear to be the right answer. He still looks quite suspect defensively and he isn’t as big a threat going forward as he should be.

It’s an area that Australia struggle for almost across the board. One look at the A-League shows our lack of quality left sided defenders. Scott Jamieson is one name who could step into the void, although even he has quite some improvement left in him.

Then there are the left-field options (pardon the pun) of Turkey-based, Melbourne raised Ersan Gulum and Portuguese-based Jason Davidson.

Gulum signed with Turkish giants Besiktas on the off-season and has managed two games with the club so far. For the last two seasons he played in the second division for Adanaspor, playing 59 games and scoring two goals. Although he mostly played as a central defender, even being named in the Team of the Season for the TFF First Leage, he is more than capable of playing on the left.

Davidson, a member of Australia’s U20 squad for the 2009 FIFA U20 World Cup and son of Socceroo champion Alan Davidson, recently signed for Portuguese outfit Pacos de Ferreira and has made a handful of appearances for the club in Portugal’s top flight.

Neither of those are ready made replacements, however, so Osieck must decide whether he sticks with Carney or, like he did with other positions these last two games, gives an opportunity for a youngster to show his wares.

It’s a tough call, but if it were up to me, I’d be opting for the latter and having one eye on the future. Players like Gulum, Davidson and even Shane Lowry are realistically players capable of playing at the next two, possibly three, World Cups for Australia. Carney will be 30 by the time 2014 comes around, which by no means is to old, but he is a player for the now, not for the future.

Osieck will primarily be judged on his win-loss record, so focussing on the now isn’t necessarily bad. But after Verbeek failed to really bring through the next generation of Socceroos, Osieck will also be judged on how he does just that…bring through the next generation.

As Spiranovic, Holman and Federici showed over the last few days, the next generation is more than capable. They just need to be given the chance.

Osieck has shown a willingness in his first two games give players a chance. Long may it continue.

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