Australia vs. South Africa: A Lesson In Mediocrity

If Monday night’s friendly game in Sydney was anything to go by, the World Cup will be a non-event for Australia. Playing a truly B-grade South African team (which was missing its starting goalkeeper and captain Itumeleng Khune, as well as top-goal scorer Bernard Parker and midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi, a teammate of Australia’s Mile Jedinak at Crystal Palace), Australia was at the very least disappointing, and at the worst truly abysmal.

The first thirty minutes showed the youth and pace of the Australian squad, as they barrelled into the South African box with a flurry of rapid wing attacks, which although spirited, amounted to little as the Aussies consistently failed to control the ball. The largely unknown South African team was able to keep the Australians out of the net, and with their first attack of the night Ayanda Patosi scrambled to the ball and slipped it past Australia’s rookie keeper, putting the visitors ahead in the 13th minute.

It was a bit of a shock to the home crowd, who were expecting the absolute destruction of the 65th ranked team in the world, who had not even qualified for Brazil 2014. I myself had high hopes for the team led by Tim Cahill, a beacon of light in Australia’s previous two World Cup campaigns. A $10 stake on the favourites, paying $1.40 to South Africa’s $3.80, seemed like a way to make the game more interesting to watch.

After our golden boy Cahill headed home a beautiful cross just one minute after Patosi’s goal, there was hope. The team looked unified and strong. However, by the 30th minute it was clear that Australia was just too inexperienced. For such a young team, weariness should not have been an issue, but the pace and speed had slacked off, and it almost seemed like the Aussies were going to be happy with a draw. Tommy Oar and Ben Halloran were the standout players for Australia, managing to keep some semblance of pressure on the South African defenders, but nothing was going in the net.

The second half was some of the most uninteresting football I have ever seen. Nothing developed, and the South Africans themselves seemed to be astounded by the poor quality of the Australian Attack. The game ended a 1-1 draw.

After a chat with my good friend Mike, some serious issues and questions started to come up. Was Ange Postecoglou a good choice to replace Holger Osiek as the Socceroos coach just eight months before the World Cup? Has his plan really added anything to their chances? Or has it in fact detracted from them? The answers to these tough questions will likely remain hidden until our group stage games wrap up.

One thing, however, is clear now. Getting rid of Lucas Neil was a terrible error by Postecoglou. Neil’s energy and leadership in defence is exactly what we need if we’re to stifle the blows of top tier teams like Spain and the Netherlands.

During the game the commentary team praised the Socceroos. The headline for the match review on the Socceroos website read ‘Socceroos dazzle but held to draw’. Maybe they should call it what it was, a poor performance by a fragmented team. I’ll leave you with the top rated comment on that particular review.

“Who’s writing these headlines? Were they watching another game? We played a Sunday league South African squad. It was horrible to watch and if we play like that in the World Cup god help us. Some of those blokes performances today were sub A league standard…” – Marcus