Scott Chipperfield – a key member of Australian football’s golden generation – believes the Socceroos will qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup – but will struggle when they get there.
The veteran of 68 caps for his country, two World Cups and a decorated club career in Europe with FC Basel, Chipperfield, now 36, fears a lack of depth will leave Australia wanting should it book its ticket to Brazil.
While qualification is no certainty with just two points from three group games ahead of next Tuesday morning’s (AEDT) duel against Iraq in Doha, Chipperfield – now playing lower level football in Switzerland – has no concerns about Holger Osieck’s ability to lead his team to South America.
But he foresees a short stay could be its ultimate fate.
“I think with three home games to come, and the chance to pick up three points – or at least one – against Iraq we are still in a decent position to qualify from our group behind Japan,” he said.
“We certainly have the quality and know-how in the team to accomplish that. What concerns me, though, is how we will do when we get there.
“The team is in transition right now and I’m not sure we have the depth of the 2006 and 2010 World Cups and that could be a telling factor in Brazil.
“I would like to be proved wrong but that’s the way I see it right now.
“The bottom line for us is that when we get there we are going to have to improve a lot if we’re to make any kind of impression.”
Chipperfield says while three points against Iraq would “take the pressure off” an Australia team lagging third in its group, it’s not a pre-requisite to ultimate qualification with home games to come against Oman, Jordan and Iraq, plus a testing trip to group leader Japan.
“Away from home you would probably take a point against Iraq, especially since playing in Asia is far harder than many people realise,” he said.
“The reality is there are no easy games there.”
Chipperfield also has concerns over the left-back role he made his own for the bulk of his international career, with none of those who have auditioned for the role making a cast-iron case to take the reins fulltime.
David Carney – now clubless and dropped from the squad to face Iraq – has had the longest run, while FC Utrecht’s Michael Zullo has also been fleetingly utilised in the role. The versatile Matt McKay will be deployed there against the Iraqis and Netherlands-based rookie Jason Davidson has also had a brief taste.
“It’s become a problem position for us,” added Chipperfield.
“You saw, for example, that David Carney looked rusty against Jordan (in the shock 2-1 loss in Amman). You could see he hadn’t played too much club football. It’s hard when you come in underdone for the national team, because it’s a step up.
“You need that sharpness and he didn’t have it. I don’t know what the long-term answer is in that position. It is a concern.
“When you see somebody like Matt McKay playing there, you think he’d be better utilised further forward.”
Chipperfield is hoping the younger players being blooded by Osieck – including the likes of Ryan McGowan and Tommy Oar – bed in quickly.
“There’s still a long way to go to the World Cup and hopefully one of the youngsters will make a statement,” he said.
“I’ve always liked the look of Tommy Oar and also Rhys Williams (currently injured).
“There are some spots up for grabs and obviously the older players (Lucas Neill, Tim Cahill, Mark Bresciano, Mark Schwarzer and Luke Wilkshire) can’t go on forever, even though in my view they still have a lot to offer.
“I would also like to see Brett Emerton brought back in as soon as possible because he’s produced a lot for the national team over the years and can continue to do so. There’s no substitute for the sort of experience and quality he brings.”
John Boultbee is set to relinquish his role as Football Federation Australia’s (FFA) Head of National Teams to take up a role as honorary head of World Rowing (FISA).