It was a great achievement for Pim Verbeek to get an ageing team to the World Cup Finals four years ago, which makes Holger Osciek’s achievement even more remarkable. Congratulations to him, the players and all of the team in the background.
Whether you like the coach’s tactics he achieved what he set out to do. It was never going to be easy this time around, as Captain Lucas Neill said the other nations are improving and Australia has a crop of developing international players, rather than established ones coming through.
The senior players stepped up last night when they were needed and that experience was what eventually saw Australia manage the victory they needed so badly. Osciek faced all sorts of criticism when he pulled off pin up Tim Cahill, but his move proved to be inspired with his replacement Josh Kennedy scoring the all important goal; a just reward for a man who has rarely grabbed the headlines but has always done well for his country.
One thing that appeared to help this group of players was spending three weeks together for the games against Japan, Jordan and Iraq. This time together appeared to galvanise them as a group and it showed on the park. The performances may not have been what many expected but they were effective and ultimately they achieved what they set out to do. Credit must go to all concerned for that.
The sad thing is when all of the celebrations die down Holger and his support crew will know that they have to strengthen this squad, and many who were on the bench last night will not be travelling to Brazil. As well as the defence played last night there are still question marks over the back four. Matt Mackay for one, despite his usual combative display is not a natural left back and against quality opposition he will be found out.
The good news is there are players who can come in if they play to their potential in the coming year, players like Trent Sainsbury, Rhys Williams, Shane Lowry, and Chris Herd to name a few. These players must play regular football in the coming year and be consistent. There is no doubt Holger Osciek and his assistants Robbie Hooker and Aurelio Vidmar will be following all Australian players playing around the world and hopefully have a reliable network of people keeping an eye on these players, as these will be the ones needed in Brazil in 2014. Unfortunately very few playing in the A-League will be capable of such a big step up, hence why they are still in the A-League.
It promises to be an exciting year ahead and we wish every player vying for a spot on the plane to Brazil the best season possible, as we once again congratulate all involved with the Socceroos and especially the coaching staff and leadership group for pulling them through.