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Buzzing Bresciano turns back the clock

29 February 2012-SBS ANALYSIS: Philip Micallef

Classy comeback ... Australia midfielder Mark Bresciano (Getty Images)

Mark Bresciano may well have cemented his place in Australia's problematic midfield after a commanding performance in his comeback game against Saudi Arabia.

Bresciano, who plays in the United Arab Emirates for Dubai club Al Nasr, was given an opportunity by Socceroos coach Holger Osieck to show whether he still had it in him to be an influential international player.

Osieck had heard all about the exploits at club and national level of the experienced midfielder.

But since Bresciano went into international hibernation immediately after the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa he never worked under the German mentor although he was 'watched' by Osieck's staff.

This time Osieck did not have to rely on third-party reports on Bresciano's form because he was able to see for himself what the 32-year-old can bring to the team in that vital area between defence and attack.

It was a classic 'No 10' performance, even though he still carries his old number 23.

Osieck's fulsome appraisal of Bresciano's display would suggest that the coach liked what he saw.

Australia dumped its system of two holding midfielders in favour of a sort of diamond for this match against the desperate Saudis, which facilitated the return of attack-minded Bresciano.

After a hesitant start the team moved up the gears in the second part of the first half and it reached its climax with a three-goal blitz that crushed the Saudis.

The beautiful pass through the heart of the Saudi defence that freed Alex Brosque for Australia's first goal showed that Bresciano had lost none of the quick-thinking and passing skills that he perfected by playing for a decade in Italy's Serie A, where speed of thought is paramount in a league that affords players so little space and time on the ball.

He also played a key part in two of Australia's goals in the second half but it was his positive all-round performance punctuated by numbers of high technique that caught the eye of whoever was fortunate enough to watch the pulsating game.

After a fortnight of hell generated by the Gold Coast United saga that reached its climax a few hours before the match when the recalcitrant club was kicked out of the A-League, it was satisfying to be able to savour a truly magnificent game of football.

All in all the team that had a large A-League component played incisively, particularly in the second half.

Most players did a lot of running off the ball and found each other beautifully with crisp and precise passing.

There also was a smooth and efficient transition of the ball from the back towards the front, where fast-improving Brosque and born-again Harry Kewell looked sharp and hungry for goals.

Not since the 6-0 demolition of Uzbekistan in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup semi-final in Doha did the Socceroos show such fluency in the final third of the field and such clinical finishing.

Osieck will be expected to give Bresciano another chance to impress when Australia meets Denmark in Copenhagen in its next match in June.

By then the Australians will have known their opponents in the final phase of qualifying for a spot in the World Cup in Brazil.

The point was made by Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy this week that it is imperative for the game in Australia that the Socceroos qualify for each and every World Cup.

With a refreshed and revitalised Bresciano keen to prolong his Socceroos career and the team as a whole clicking into gear, Osieck can look towards the last eight matches of the World Cup campaign with optimism.

There is no doubt that, regardless of rankings, Australia and Japan are the strongest teams in Asia at the moment and, barring any reversal of form, they should be on the plane for Brazil.

There were signs in the match against the Saudis that the Australians might also do it in style too.

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