Olyroos vs Iraq - Post Game
With the 2-0 win tonight, we are well and truly on our way to Beijing! A packed Blue Tongue Stadium in Gosford witnessed a hugely entertaining match which showcased the skills of both sides. Australia started with a familiar 3-4-3 and immediately were on the front foot, needing a win whereas Iraq started with a very defensive formation, playing 1 up front and obviously letting Australia come to them and then trying to hit on the counter.
Vukovic didn't have to make any rediculously difficult saves but was solid when he was called upon. You can't ask anymore from the lad and I can't wait to see him getting the nod ahead of Jones and Federici as the Socceroos number two.
The back four had a different look and feel to it than past matches with McClenahan moving back to the right and Leijer into the centre again. McClenahan had an immense match and was close to man of the match for me. The way he controlled switched passes from 20 metres + was as if he had velcro on his shoe. Was also on hand to make some key last ditch tackles. I must admit that before the Olyroos I hadn't heard much of this lad but he is definitely one to keep an eye on.
The same could be said for Topor-Stanley on the other side of defense. After Australia went 1-0 up and Iraq changed their tactics to play much higher up the park and look to take control of the midfield he was caught out by their pacey winger but his strength in the air and attacking ability makes up for his slight lack of pace.
Leijer and Milligan are stars. Nothing more to say about them. Milligan WILL captain Australia at a world cup, mark my words. And no I am not imitating Fozzie on this one, since I watched this kid in the youth team at Northern Spirit and then week in week out at Sydney FC he has always been one to watch and from what I see and hear a very capable leader. Leijer too was solid. You could see his lack of match practice but he soon settled down and his defensive positioning and some of his tackles made me again see why Fulham picked him up. It was definitely no coincidence that these two got the goals.
Moving onto the midfield, Broxham was solid playing a holding role. Its the position that I love the most and love to bag when players don't do well in it. I have nothing bad to say about Broxham who filled into the massive shoes left by the 'injured' Stuart Musialik. Sarkies and Zad played wider off him and all three controlled the midfield well in the first half but seemed to let it go after Iraq decided to play again. Especially in the last 20 mins of the first half they all have a lot of thanks to give to their defenders. Sarkies free kicks however were divine!
Up front Troisi was immense tearing down the left wing while Vidosic started a lot quieter. As the game went on their respective impacts reversed. Bridge, playing in the middle worked his arse off but became isolated after the goals came and we started to sit back more. Williams came on late for him which was a good move, his speed running at the tired Iraqi defense proved enough of a handful that they couldn't afford to push forward as much as they would have liked.
As for the other subs Ward and Downes didn't have too much of a chance coming on late. Not much to say but rate them on reputation and past performances.
So a point in Pyong Yang and we are there. From a footballing only viewpoint Australia should win this match comfortably but what distinguishes football from other sports is the outside factors that the international arena can throw up. We go from a barmy Saturday night in layed back Gosford to sub-zero temperatures and plastic grass in the capital of a communist state for a mid week tie. Love it!