Friday, January 8, 2010

Socceroos drop early lead to draw two all in Kuwait

Early goals from Luke Wilkshire and Dean Heffernan weren’t enough to see Australia over the line against Kuwait, and the draw leaves them in a precarious position heading into the last round of Asia Cup Qualifiers.


Things started rosily for the Socceroos, with a Dean Heffernan long throw in only the third minute finding its way to Mile Jedinak, and was then headed the ball back to Russian based Wilkshire, who promptly drove the ball into the net with a rising volley. Only two minutes later Nicky Carle was fouled, and the resulting free-kick (taken by Carle) found Heffernan, and then the goal.

The game was then reduced to little more than long balls up and down the bumpy pitch, but this approach eventually saw the Kuwaitis claw one back, when in the fortieth minute Simon Colosimo failed to clear a clearance, and Hamad Enezi pounced. Only four minutes later another ball over the top saw Youssef Nasser draw Kuwait level, and the teams went into the half time break level.

The result leaves Australia in a precarious position heading into their final Asian Cup Qualifier against Indonesia (in Brisbane on the 3rd of March). The point against leaves Australia sitting second in their group on 8 points, with Kuwait sitting ahead on goal difference, and Oman one point back. As the other game in the group will be Oman v Kuwait, Australia only needs a point to ensure qualification, but even that might be a task.

While recently club-less Craig Moore might have said after the game “if we can’t get a result at home to Indonesia, we don’t deserve to be at the Asian Cup,” Indonesia did manage to hold us to a bore draw in our previous encounter, and the Socceroos will need to be on their game to see off Indonesia at Suncorp Stadium.

The draw leaves Verbeek with a difficult decision heading into the next game, does he rely on A-League players and face potential embarrassment (ala Kuwait in Canberra) or does he go for the safer route and call up his Euroos. While the Indonesia match is on a FIFA sanctioned date, as it is a date sanctioned for friendlies, European players would likely only arrive two days before the game.

I think the most likely approach Pim will take is a mix of the two, similar to the squad for the Kuwait game. That is, he will call up some of the European based players, but likely not include the star names of Cahill, Kewell and Neil in the squad.

Now personally I didn’t catch the game (am currently at the coast and have very poor internet), but for a good rundown of how the players went individually, and who have furthered their World Cup hopes, check out today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

The major controversy coming out of the game is the laser incident, with Dario Vidosic (and others) claiming that they had lasers pointed at them during the game, and pictures seem to back this up. While this is a whole issue in itself, I think it’s pretty poor to do something like that, and hopefully the AFC and Kuwaiti FA will punish those involved.

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