Don’t get me wrong. I’m a proud Aussie and by no means a Verbeek-hater.
But after wiping away the small tears rolling down my frosty cheeks at 6am this morning (yes, we are in a bad time zone for football fans!), I couldn’t help but wonder whether we could have done with a little sprinkle of the Special One’s magic following the Socceroos 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Germany.
The headlines will surely blame the obvious. Yes, our main man, Timmy Cahill was sent off. And yes, Germany’s big-name stars played superbly. But by far the biggest letdown was Australia’s organisation and tactics, which, despite being labelled “boring”, had served us extremely well in World Cup qualifying.
Verbeek took a massive risk today in deploying a very high defensive line. Knowing the Germans play out from the back, Verbeek wanted to pressure the midfield generals, Schweinsteiger and Khedira into mistakes as well as trying to continually play Germany’s potent strikeforce off-side. Unfortunately for Verbeek and his team, Jogi Low’s men were far too talented and experienced for this.
On the flipside, Australia’s pressing 4-4-2 formation (against Germany’s 4-2-3-1) left the Socceroos exposed and a man short in midfield. Over and over again, the Die Mannschaft wingers, Podolski and Muller, were left in space to zoom past Australia’s high line of defenders at full speed, fed by silky balls through from creative genius and destroyer-in-chief, Mesut Ozil, who was rewarded for an outstanding game by an early shower.
So why a touch of Mourinho then I hear you say? Under Verbeek, Australia has played a counter-attacking 4-2-3-1, and Mourinho has shown himself to be THE master of this style. His giant-killing Inter Milan team have stifled and suffocated the best attacking line-ups in the world this season (think Chelsea and Barcelona).
The key to Mourinho’s success has been condensing his defence into a very deep and compact 4-4-1-1 while the opposition is in possession, with barely 10 yards separating the two imposing defensive walls of four. Once Inter win the ball, the team would expand at pace into a 4-2-3-1 or 4-2-1-3 for a too-often deadly counter-attack.
If, as Lucas Neill had said before the game, Australia were playing for a draw, the Inter model would have been a far more effective approach. While this would have gifted Germany far greater ball possession, it also would have also closed the acres of space afforded to Ozil and Co in the attacking third. It also may have allowed greater opportunities for the likes of wingers Garcia, Emerton and Rukavytsya to get into the game.
With his talisman Cahill out of the next game against Ghana, its back to the chalkboard in terms of Australia’s tactical set-up. Plan A is gone. Let’s hope Plan B is better.