Mark Schwarzer just may be the best goal keeper in the world. He should probably be playing for Man U, Liverpool, Chelsea or Arsenal. He was standing right in front of me and was as tall as I expected but thinner. He saved Australia tonight. That and Iraq's very poor finish in front of near open goals. The Socceroos defence was brittle. A good team would have had 3 goals by half time. For one, we were lucky Schwarzer can drag his feet. For another, there were about 5 Socceroos defenders but none were marking the striker in front of goal. It was like junior games. Fortunately, the striker's header was poor and the wrong option. He actually had the time to cushion the ball down to his feet and belt it in. Lucky he didn't.
I was a little dejected after the game. I thought it was a good ad for the A-League, that seemly offered games with more entertainment. But when I got home I watched most of it again and realised that, particularly in the first half, the Socceroos attacks had been much more entertaining than I could see from behind Schwarzer's goal.
The 48,000 strong crowd were a bit subdued. Perhaps because it was the Iraq that looked so fast and exciting. Perhaps it was the atmosphere from the rain that was there but fortunately only a soft pat on our faces. Perhaps it was because the guys next to me were drunk and often lost interest in the game to sing songs or try to pick fights with the dads with kids in front of them. To be fair they may have been the only ones in the crowd like that but I got to sit next to them. No 2 crowd sturing moment in the game were the 2 Iraqi's that invaded the pitch near the end - one of them pushed a Socceroo - I wonder if he will get jail for that?
The telling element of the game for me was the number times the Iraqi team had played together v the togetherness of the Australian team. The Iraqis' had far more caps that us. As I saw at home, in attack Australia was good and looking danagerous. In defence, we looked poor. I don't know how they will go in the heat of the middle east against better teams. Don't forget that Bahrain beat Japan 1-0 and Qatar beat Iraq. Our defence, in the best possible conditions for players coming out of Europe looked slow. David Carney did not look at home at left full back. And in the second when he offered the opportunity to push forward on the left, his team mates ignored him. But it was Beauchamp who had the most disappointing game. Based on this game and the other game I saw him in at Land Park against Paraguay, I don't think he cuts it at international level. Jade North looked OK.
The man of the match was Brett Emerton. He ran all night and all over the park. It was a truly Dutch performance slotting into others roles and excelling in them. And of cause setting up the goal for Harry to finish with his head just after half time. In the second half Emerton was brilliant running with the ball, passing... Harry looked good too. And the Iraqis looked like they would sacrifice a man to keep him quite.
Perhaps the most memorable moment of the second half, after the goal was Jason Culina looking to pass into attack, having to turn and pass back to another defender, and then remonstrating with his colleagues, yelling at them about their static play.
Scott McDonald was another disappointment for me. I may have missed his action because I didn't see him create much. He doesn't seem strong enough or creative enough. On the other hand, Pim Verbeek's surprise was to cap Bruce Djite - despite his Adelaide rift and Europe move, another proof that the A-League is doing its job. Bruce Djite had a great time on the park. He looked dangerous. Put together some great moves and crosses. Schwarzer landed the ball on his head a number of times and he gave his defenders a very difficult time. The drunk guys near me wanted Nicky Carle, but we got great value from Bruce.
Can Australia win in the heat? We will know next week.