Australia struggled to a 2-1 victory over a tough Thailand squad in Brisbane on friday night. The game was the first fixture in the long qualification process for the 2014 World Cup through the Asian confederation. Big Josh Kennedy and substitute Alex Brosque were the goal scorers for the Socceroos, whilst Dangda scored for Thailand.
The game began in the fashion most people expected, attacking from Australia. However their repetitive crossing from the right flank from the duo of Brett Emerton and Luke Wilkshire became predictable for the Thailand defence. Though they lacked the size of the Australians, the Thai defenders managed to out jump their opponents as well as the fact that the crosses were most of the time poor. Thailand then shocked the home crowd with a quick goal on the counter attack in the 15th minute, taking the lead. The crowd was silent, apart from the vocal away crowd that sung and danced the whole way through the 90 minutes. This was in stark contrast to the home support, whom were almost non existent for most of the match. Australia tried to reply straight away, but found they had plenty of time on the ball, as the Thai team at many occasions had the whole team behind the ball defending. Australia lacked a spark in the middle of the pitch who was willing to take on defenders and were therefore forced wide by the compact Thai defence. This led to the bombardment of crosses into the Thailand penalty area, which they dealt with well. Tim Cahill and Josh Kennedy forced a couple of great saves from the Thai 'keeper, but it was not enough to draw level before half time.
Ex Melbourne Victory player Surat Sukha added to the already disgruntled feeling at the game by showing off his swimming pool artistry - diving. He was tackled fairly by an Australian player in the first half and went down, got up and ran then fell down again feigning injury. He then eventually did it again in the second half, but this time he was taken off on a stretcher injured. He was replaced in the 79th minute to the jeers of the home crowd for his efforts. The referee must have also forgotten who the home team was, it took him until the 84th minute to give out a yellow card to the Thailand team, even though they simulated and nagged the Australians.
It took Australia until the 57th minute to draw level after Matt McKay made a brilliant over lapping run around Brett Holman. McKay made it into the penalty area and shot only to be denied by the Thai 'keeper. The ball rebounded out to the waiting Josh Kennedy, who had the simplest of finishes from inside six yards. Not long after Australia had a goal ruled out from a corner, as the crowd grew further frustrated with the standard of refereeing. However substitute Alex Brosque saved Australia's blushes in the 86th minute when, after that man McKay delivered a superb cross only for Brosque to fail to climb high enough to get a touch. Josh Kennedy was waiting behind and the ball appeared to brush his arm as it found its way back to Brosque who stroked home with his left foot.
It was an uninspiring display from the Socceroos who will need to pick up their game if they are any chance to beat Saudi Arabia on their turf on wednesday. Holger made a few surprise selections that both back fired and worked. Matthew Spiranovic breathed fresh air into Australia's defence as he looked calm and composed on the ball, he also tackled well. McKay proved his versatility once again being played out of position at left back. He was the provider of both goals and was consistent in attack and defence, even though most of the play went down the right flank. The central midfield pairing again sticks out like a sore thumb. Neil Kilkenny was almost non-existent in this match, which is hard work in a position that sees a lot of the ball. Carl Valeri can tackle, sometimes, but he CANNOT PASS. Unfortunately Holger does not seem to want to use new Glascow Rangers recruit McKay in his preferred position in the centre of the park, which is a shame because he is exactly what the Socceroos need there right now. Brett Holman's movement and positioning were again impeccable, as it always is. Apart from that he had a poor game, he must have forgot his shooting boots. Josh Kennedy was handled well by the Thai defence as he and Cahill were marked out of the game at times. Kennedy however stuck up high and drew his markers in well, as Cahill dropped deep to look for the ball later in the game. Both players however were expected to head, head, head and this lack of creativity resulted in a poor showing from Australia.
Hopefully Holger Osieck is willing to make a few changes before the match against Saudi Arabia, because they are needed. The Socceroos were definitely in need of quick striker like Nikita Rukavytsya, but he has been left out of this squad. The sooner Holger starts bringing in these talented youngsters the better.