Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Australia's Poor Defence A Cause For Concern

Australia showed great weakness on Tuesday night, London time, when it played its international friendly on neutral ground at Craven Cottage, England, against Norway. The result ended 2 - 2 at full time.

Australia's supporters would no doubt have been buoyed by Australia's attacking set-up, with three forwards incorporated in a 4 - 3 - 3 formation, letting the likes of Blackburn player Brett Emerton shine as a wing-forward. There was some doubt about the formation attacking-wise when they played the Solomon Islands twice last month. Their attacks were not fluid and looked to be based upon the pace and dribbling ability of each individual player. However, this time they made the set-up play very well by using a good passing game.

Everton's Tim Cahill, 24 years of age, played a wonderful game from midfield and scored Australia's first goal three minutes after Norway's Steffen Iversen put the European team 1 - 0 up late in the first half. After the break Josip Skoko scored the second goal to put Australia a goal in front, which was then equalised by a Morten Gamst Pedersen free kick only minutes from time. Mark Viduka played a fantastic role up front, using his strength to hold up the ball and dragging defensive markers away from goal.

However, defensive-wise, there is a lot of work to be done. The first goal scored by Iversen was extremely weak on Australia's part. No man-marking was deployed on the counter-attack, leaving all of the opposing attacking players free, while hardly any of the midfield bothered to run down hard enough to cover for defence. It was an easy goal for Iversen as he netted Mark Schwarzer's deflection.

The Australian defence -- which consisted of Lucas Neill, Danny Tiatto, Tony Popovic, and Tony Vidmar -- once again lacked concentration on Pedersen's free kick, and so too did goalkeeper and captain Schwarzer. The Blackburn winger's cross beat all of the defence and was easily let past to travel into the back of the net by a confused Schwarzer.

There were other incidences throughout the match that exposed their weaknesses, but they were not exploited well. However, if they were to play a South American team, more of those gaps in the defence would be exploited, as it was agreed by Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) analysts Les Murray and Craig Foster. Even coach Frank Farina told the media that he considered the two goals considered to be "soft".

To sum up the game, overall, it was the best game Australia had played for a long time, despite there being obvious improvements to be made. The attacks made were fluid and commendable. The likes of it have probably not been seen since their remarkable 3 - 1 victory against England some two years ago. Their defence, however, even with the likes of injured Craig Moore in the side, is a cause for concern.

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