Pim Verbeek knows he has limited attacking flair within his Socceroos squad.
Recent performances by the team have shown that, although the results have reflected favourably, making the Dutchman’s preparations for the World Cup positive.
Australia were pushed to the limit by New Zealand last Monday, taking all of the 90 minutes plus some stoppage time to overcome what was supposed to be an inferior opponent and last night they were average in defeating Denmark 1-0.
Although the chances didn’t come often, the fact they got another result, though at times ugly is the main thing leading into a major tournament.
The Aussies had no trouble defensively against the Danes and this is where they will lose and gain points in the group stage against quality opposition in Germany, Denmark and Serbia.
The regular back four of Scott Chipperfield, Lucas Neill, Craig Moore and Luke Wilkshire looked hard to break down and in going the other way, Chipperfield and Wilkshire provided plenty of options and last night in particular, their crossing was very good. This may prove to be a real weapon in Verbeek’s armoury if he continues to play his 4-2-3-1 formation which includes two defensive midfielders.
That formation sees Josh Kennedy, who scored the only goal against Denmark, up forward by himself which is okay if the wingers are playing wide and sending in dangerous crosses but last night the Socceroos were very compact with a high defensive line causing little space in the centre of the pitch where Australia had five men situated.
This ploy was clearly to make life difficult for Denmark but cut down the potential of Kennedy who was forced to try and win the ball with clever touches as he had his back to goal. He is far more comfortable competing in the air where few can go with him.
Australia still have some kinks to iron out before the opening group stage match against Germany on June 13 as some of their passing, particularly in close, was not accurate and swift enough but with more time on the ball at training and in Saturday’s friendly against the USA, that is likely to improve.
The inclusion of Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton to the starting line-up (who knows when that will be), will strengthen the eleven but for now, Verbeek has to get things right without the pair.
In the past two warm-up matches, Australia have looked more threatening after half-time when Verbeek has moved Jason Culina from defensive midfield into a wide role, either on the left or right, and deployed Brett Holman and Dario Vidosic into attacking positions off the bench. Although Tim Cahill looked spritely in the first half, things looked a little more dangerous when he was substituted but that could have been due to the fact that Holman and Vidosic were told to attack as soon as they set foot on the pitch.
In regards to preparation, it looks like Verbeek is headed in the right direction although the line-up could do with a bit of extra spark and flair which could come in the form of Kewell and Emerton, but if not, he has the basis to grind out results which may not be pretty to watch but may serve them well against more attacking opponents.