I seem to be constantly on my own these days – a lonely voice in the wilderness.
Every other commentator seems to be in furious agreement about the VAR decisions being universally correct on the weekend, despite how long it took to make them. I, on the other hand, am adamant that both handball penalties (against Adelaide and Central Coast) were wrong. Completely, utterly and egregiously wrong.
I also think the Socceroos didn’t play very well against Chinese Taipei.
That might seem an odd call when you win 7 – 1, but to my mind the very ordinary performance by Taipei’s part-timers papered over a whole bunch of cracks that any decent team in the next round will wrench open with alacrity.
In truth, I’m not concerned about the score (except for the 1) but I am concerned about the performance.
To be fair, it was a humid night and a lousy pitch – that’s always a leveller. We were also a little disjointed through numerous changes, but Chinese Taipei are all (I believe) part-time professionals and none play in any decent league.
In contrast, our players are mostly playing in Europe with a handful in strong Asian leagues (including the A-League).
Looking mainly at the first half, there was little movement in the final third. We constantly had a line of five ball watchers across the front while the likes of Mooy and Irvine held the ball up, waiting for the killer run. It rarely came, although when it did it was mostly devastating (hence our first two goals).
For most of the half there was little attempt to get Mabil or Borello in behind, and surely that was Plan A. I don’t think either of them touched the ball in the attacking half in the first 15 minutes!
The defending was lazy and complacent, and it was no wonder Taipei scored. We had chances to clear, we had chances to get into better defensive positions – but it was almost like the players simply assumed Taipei wouldn’t be able to score, so didn’t bother defending.
In attack there was no understanding – balls were played into channels where no-one was running. Every time the ball went early wide, instead of a fast ball forward to catch the defence out of position, the players would check back and let Taipei get back in shape.
Finally, blessedly, Jackson Irvine’s brace put the game beyond doubt and we were able to relax and start playing. But how will we go against substantially better teams who won’t allow us the luxury of so much time and space? And who are much better at parking the bus?
There’s also the problem of half time. We always seem to lose momentum – it took us nearly half an hour to score the fifth and the Taipei players were all collapsing with cramp as we notched up six and seven in the dying minutes.
On the positive side, however, nearly every goal came from crosses in open play. Mabil and Hrustic looked excellent (at times), both main strikers are driving each other to better and better performances, and Mooy and Irvine were outstanding (as usual).
Harry Souttar is emerging as a genuine threat in the enemy box, but it must be remembered that he is picked as a defender and looked uncertain at times. He might have been punished against half decent opposition.
The fact is, Chinese Taipei didn’t test us. I know it sounds weird, but I think we struggled to a 7 – 1 win against very weak opposition. I take no confidence from this game at all and am looking forward to the return of Sainsbury, Rogic, Arzani and Boyle.
As a tiny little postscript to this match, I was bemused by some ground hoardings advertising Megabank. They might be attracted to such assertions of grandeur in Taiwan but what would Australians make of a major bank proclaiming its might so baldly?
All part of Asia's wonderful cultural diversity.
Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. He will have a new novel out shortly.