After a 3-0 crushing of the All Whites (NZ's mens Football team) and a lively 0-0 draw with Serbia the Socceroos mostly second string squad has shown manager Holger Osieck he has some depth coming into the 2014 World Cup qualifiers beginning in September. Depth will be crucial during a rigorous qualifying campaign which sees the Socceroos cover plenty of miles in travel to some exotic and obscure parts of the Asian continent. There will also be times no doubt where some of our top guns in Europe will not be realised from their club because the Asian and European seasons run at different times. Add to this the fact of life in football of injuries and suspensions, it was refreshing to see players showing they could make the cut at international level.
On sunday the 5th, the Socceroos took on the All Whites at Adelaide Oval. It was pouring rain and very windy but it didn't stop the Socceroos as they cruised to a 3-0 win. Josh Kennedy managed a brace in his return to the national team after injury, scoring his first under rather fortunate circumstances. A poor back pass from Jeremy Brockie to his 'keeper Glen Moss allowed the big lad Kennedy to steal through and pass into the net. He had a golden opportunity not long after his first after being played through by Dario Vidosic but Kennedy could only put it over the top. His second goal however came on the hour after a well worked corner from Vidosic found Kennedy's head for him to bullet into the net. The third goal came from home town hero James Troisi who slotted home from the penalty spot after substitute Robbie Kruse was brought down in the box. Troisi was one of the highlights of the first match playing on the left flank. He threatened the Kiwis many times with his bustling runs and footwork, it was brilliant to watch. He was allowed to play the full 90 minutes by Osieck as well which was a nice touch from the manager. 'Keeper Nathan Coe also got a chance to impress against the Kiwis making some great saves whilst never being under complete threat from the All Whites. Neil Kilkenny, Michael Zullo, Matthew Spiranovic and Jon McKain were all given starts by the manager and played well. Robbie Kruse, Rhys Williams, Dario Vidosic and Alex Brosque all came off the bench during the match and put in solid performances.
Two days later the Socceroos backed up their impressive win over the Kiwis with a entertaining draw with Serbia in Melbourne. Adam Federici - coming straight from England where his team Reading lost 4-2 to Swansea in the playoff for the final place in the English Premier League - put in a masterful display between the sticks to deny Serbia on numerous occasions. Brett Holman was the other star for the Socceroos putting himself about all over the pitch in his usual fashion and creating chances. Mile Jedinak had the Socceroos best chance of the first half only for his shot to be blocked by a Serbian defender. Serbia's best chance was wasted by young starlet Adem Ljajic who shot over the bar in the 40th minute. Federici then put in his claim to replacing Schwarzer when he retires with a brilliant save at the feet of fleet footed Serbian winger Zoran Tosic. He backed it up with a wonderful save from a Ljajic shot just before a flair was thrown at his goal, landing very close. Holman's running was paying off and in the 61st minute he could only manage to shoot over the bar before backing it up three minutes later with a trademark long range shot from outside the box that scrapped the left hand post. Not long after Federici was at it again denying Serbia two more excellent opportunities to go in front. Australia's best chance of the entire match came in the 79th minute after some excellent build up play saw James Troisi free on the left flank and one-on-one with the 'keeper only for him to shoot poorly straight at the 'keeper for a routine save. Dejan Stankovic was instrumental as always for Serbia, but was unlucky not to have the usual fire power in front of him to stick away the chances he provided. Tosic was also brillaint for Serbia, he showed his pace and dribbling ability throughout the match.
James Troisi was the stand out from both matches, after not knowing too much about him before these two fixtures he has certainly left his mark on not only the Australian football public, but the manager Holger Osieck as well. For me personally it was great to see young Rhys Williams back in the green and gold after a horrendous run of injuries that kept him out of football for twelve to eighteen months. He is a very versatile player that can easily cover centre back, right back or a holding midfield roll. Osieck seems to prefer him at right back, where he made both of his substitute appearances replacing Luke Wilkshire. Lets hope Williams can now hold his starting berth at club level for Middlesborough, guiding them to promotion to the Premier League. It was also great to see Josh 'Jesus' Kennedy back playing for the Socceroos. He is a big target man upfront that can cause teams lots of problems, he will be handy in the qualifiers against the smaller Asian defenders. Michael Zullo was also given plenty of minutes during the friendlies which was another great sight. Zullo is now playing at left back for his club FC Utrect in the Netherlands. Osieck also used him there in part of both matches and he showed some good qualities. He certainly has the speed and fitness for the role, but he does need to work on his defending a little more, this will come over time and with experience which he is getting plenty of in the Dutch league. I still do not understand Osieck's choice of Jon McKain, he is too old, too slow and technically not good enough for the Socceroos. The playing time he gave McKain should have went to Spiranovic who is a much better prospect. Spiranovic is only 22 years of age and still has a lot to learn, so why not give him this game time during friendly matches for his development? He played some of the match against New Zealand but McKain got the nod over him against Serbia. It is frustrating to see unfortunately, much like the centre of midfield for the Socceroos. The Jedinak/Valeri combination is not working Holger can you not see it? Am I the only one that can? It is at times very painful to watch, with the pair giving the ball away far too much for centre mids. Jedinak and Valeri are too much a like to be paired together in the engine room, they both play the same role at club level, being the tackler and strong man. It's time for Osieck to drop one of the pair to the bench and play Matt McKay or Neil Kilkenny there alongside Jedinak or Valeri. We need someone in the middle of the pitch that can play a pass and hold possession, it is arguably the most crucial position on the pitch. All in all however, it is refreshing to see Australia going after teams and playing some attacking football. Once Holger realises the central midfield problem and fixes it, we will see a more free flowing Socceroos squad.