Well from an Australian perspective, what a massive disappointment we have been so far. For some there was always that big doubt that we would underestimate this competition and boy oh boy were they on the mark!
The first two games against Oman and Iraq saw us unable to hold onto the ball. From back to front we looked unorganised and just plain lethargic. Yes blame the conditions like we have heard a thousand times from Arnold and everyone involved with the team but seriously is that really an excuse? Yes its hot and humid, I am not denying that but its just not right for excuses such as this to try to mask rubbish performances both on the park and on the touchline.
Squad selection and Arnolds ‘matesy” attitude on players picking and choosing warm up games seemed to hit us pretty hard. I can just picture Arnold in the dressing room giving his tactical instructions to the players: “Ummm Tim, you seem to score when we are behind. I think you should go on soon. Oh and I remember Guus used to put on lots of strikers. That means we will score! Yes god I am the man!” Taking off midfielders for strikers so early works great when we aren’t controlling the ball as is doesn’t it…. Both Oman and Iraq thoroughly deserved to take all 3 points from Australia and Thailand (although on a slightly lesser extent) certainly didn’t deserve to go down 4-0.
In the final group game Arnold was finally forced to make some wholesale changes, bringing in the A-League boys Carney and Milligan into our defense. Carney did a lot better than I thought he would in the position Arnold played him and although he really doesn't deserve to be left out, really someone does to accommodate for Neil and we will probably line up at the back like this against Japan:
----- Neil -- Milligan -- Beauchamp-----
For the quarter final at left wingback, I don't really mind who starts out of Carney and Wilkshire, both have their pros and cons but in Arnold's mind I think Wilkshire is leading the race. You like to bag his set pieces but realistically he is a LOT better than Bresc who I think deserves to be dropped anyway on his form from the Singapore friendly onwards. How Carle is behind in the pecking order to Holman I will never know!
Neil will come back into the team no matter what and hopefully he has received the slap in the face that he deserves and knuckles down and plays football again. Beauchamp and Milligan will not lose their place to Thwaite or Kisn00bo, I think that is set in stone for now at least.
Further up the park will Arnold stick with Aloisi alongside Viduka? I don’t think he was overly effective and wouldn’t be surprised if he played either an extra running midfielder in behind or maybe tried Archie.
The ‘big games’ have come a little earlier than expected thanks to our 2nd place finish in the group and I certainly can’t wait. This tournament has been unreal to watch and I cannot say how pleased I am to be part of Asia!