Australia v Jordan: five things we learned from the World Cup qualifier
The visitors lacked ambition; Robbie Kruse is a vital part of the team; and the Socceroos can play good football
1) Playing to the whistle is a good idea
The referee's assistant was wildly waving his flag even before Luke Wilkshire had finished spinning through the air on the 15 minute mark. No doubt it was a foul on the right side as the full-back broke free but instead of blowing for a free-kick, Abdul Bashir, resplendent in a purple shirt, let play go. A number of the visitors stopped, expecting play to follow suit, thus committing football's cardinal sin – not playing to the whistle – that let Robbie Kruse in. The wideman may or may not have said 'thank you very much' under his breath as he advanced into acres of space but Mark Bresciano certainly should have. All the midfielder had to do from the edge of the six-yard box was sidefoot the ball home for the game's opening goal – cool and classy as you like, as was the whole passage of play from the home team. It was a decent move by the referee from Singapore too.
2) Jordan couldn't control Kruse
You can see why Bayer Leverkusen thought the Kruse would be a valuable addition as they prepare for the Champions League next season. If his former club Fortuna Dusseldorf had waited a little longer, they may have received more than €1.5m.
Kruse worked hard in Saitama a week ago and was a valuable outlet for the Socceroos under pressure from a confident Japan. Against Jordan however, he was the go-to guy for much of Australia's attacking play down the right side, in contrast to the erratic Tommy Oar on the opposite flank. Kruse had plenty of possession and while he was wasteful on occasion, when he used it well, he used it very well indeed. There are assists and there are assists that deserve an asterisk. He put the first on a plate for Bresciano and the second on the pate of Cahill with an inswinging cross delivered on the move. If he had stopped there, he would still have been deserving of the man of the match award but then he got in on the act himself by scoring a third that really did lay Jordan low. His turn in the box was sublime.
Kruse asked questions that the Jordan defence had no answer for and also posed one that would perhaps stump the smiling Holger Osieck: why hasn't he been selected more often?
3) Australia have lulled Asia into a false sense of security
Whether you call it football or soccer, it really was the beautiful game at times in Melbourne – the counter-attack for the all important second was textbook, with the ball going through half the Australia team on its way from deep inside the home half to Cahill's head. The Socceroos are supposed to plump for pumping long balls, opt for the hoof and hope and play the percentages. Not in this heady month of June, they're not. For the second game in the space of a week, the Socceroos were less direct than a Hugh Grant character asking out a female lead in a 90s romcom, and much easier to like.
The passing was crisp, the movement intelligent and the finishing ruthless. Australia used the width of the pitch not to create the angle for a direct diagonal to the box from the halfway line but to play their way to the byline.
4) Lucas Neill can score
These days when England lose to Germany, they can at least amuse themselves by chanting "5-1, even Heskey scored," in reference to that famous 2002 World Cup qualifier in Munich. And perhaps for all eternity, Jordan fans will suffer a similar fate when they take on Australia. So dominant were the Socceroos that their captain, Lucas Neill, scored his first ever goal in the green and gold in his 91st appearance, 17 years after making his debut. The defender has had his knockers after turning down Liverpool for West Ham, playing in the Middle East and then playing for the Socceroos without a club, but there can be little doubt that he has been an excellent servant for his country. He was missed against Oman in March, mighty in Japan and even Jordan fans would not have begrudged his delighted celebration at the Etihad Stadium. Perhaps the only regret was that the Sydneysider couldn't have waited a week longer and broken his duck in his hometown.
5) Jordan paid the price for lack of ambition
The visitors did little to show that their record of three defeats from three previous away games in the group was unwarranted. It was a disappointing performance from a team that really had nothing to lose by attacking against an opponent under considerable pressure as the Desert Fox Adnan Hamad drew his lines in the sand too deep. The Aussies were concerned that the swift-on-the-counter visitors would be able to get behind the plodding backline but it rarely happened and Mark Schwarzer barely had a save to make. It was unfortunate for Jordan that just when they started to get hold of the ball and cause problems for the Socceroos early in the second half, Cahill, helped by the inspired subbing on of Archie Thompson, intervened to make it 2-0.
Iraq are an unpredictable team but it is safe to say that they will ask more questions of the Australia defence in Sydney next week.
Filed under: Euro 2012
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