‘MEET THE RISING STARS OF ASIA’ was the bus decoration as the bus pulled into the stadium prior to the Olyroos’ match against Jordan to decide who would make it into the business end of the U23 Asian Championships and Rio Olympic qualifiers.
Alighting from the bus, the Australian players went straight to the dressing room and Manager Aurelio Vidmar made the long walk from bus to change room via the media walk, a stretch of lighted concrete cordoned off by ropes and bright orange pylons a place of privilege where only those in the know may stride. The media walk can be one of hope, of embarrassment, confidence or even jubilation, dependent on how the team did in their last match.
After going down to the UAE through an own goal and defeating newcomers Vietnam, the walk should have been one of confidence, one of strength, one of we’re on track, but that was not the vibe.
“How is your preparation for this match”, said the Qatar journalist to Vidmar.
“Yea excellent, everyone’s in a very good mood, everyone’s fit, so we know it’s going to be a very difficult game tonight, Jordan only need one point and we have to win, so that will be a very interesting game.”
Thinking about the game against the UAE, maybe ‘everyone being in a good mood’ wasn’t the best answer, possibly starting with improvement and better communication in the front third, holding the ball up for players to get into better attacking positions, better movement from players to get in behind the defense could have been a better option.
“So you win today,” said the reporter.
“We’re confident we will”, said Aurelio Vidmar, even though his face and expression lacked confidence and belief.
“The team is ready?”
“Yes one hundred percent ready, we had a very short preparation again, they are all fit and they are ready to go,” the very short preparation comment once again alluding to the fact that the team, was in fact, not ready.
Don’t get me wrong, Aurelio Vidmar is a lovely man, we sat together at the Australian Football Awards couple of years ago, and he knows the game, yet prior to the match you could tell he lacked conviction, lacked belief and to be honest, looked terrified.
Vidmar played 21 players out of his 23-man squad, making changes for each of the games that followed the opening loss to the UAE, another hint of poor preparation showing players were not tested enough for him to make sound judgement. Either way, it was obvious that this team was a team that was not ready to represent the nation at the Rio Olympics.
Duncan, Galloway, Donachie and Gallifucco had played 129 minutes of club football between them all-season, Connor Pain hasn’t started for Victory in over a year, but got the Guernsey in the first crucial match for the Olyroos against the UAE.
In the lead up to the London Olympics the team did not score one goal in six matches and in the recent draw against Jordan managed one shot on net.
The fact of the matter is that the Olyroos have scored 2 goals in 9 qualifiers and both Vidmar and his assistant Paul Okon have lead the program unsuccessfully over three Olympic qualification campaigns and an under 20 World Cup, which is disturbing.
You don’t have to be Einstein to see where the problem lies and technically the 4-3-2-1 attacking style of play isn’t going to be effective if you dominate in possession, but lack the fortitude and technical ability to penetrate the opposition backline and score goals.
By Paul Brown