What a relief that was!
Australia's 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign went from almost sunk with passengers manning the lifeboats, to alive and well, with a succession of exciting home games to end the campaign.
Once again, the magical head of Timmy Cahill rescued what was a better performance than we’ve seen recently, albeit one that threatened to be spoiled by an unnecessary goal conceded on the counter - a capital crime when in control of the game.
No wonder Holger Osieck was smiling and laughing at the end.
Football can be a cruel business and one where a slice of luck can change one’s fortunes. His selection decisions were proven correct.
Changing the dynamics of midfield, with Alex Brosque left and Brett Holman in behind Timmy, meant Australia had more options close to the ball than in previous games. The team could build better from back to front.
Although Iraq didn't produce anything exceptional, with respect, we still had a better performance with the ball and this is a positive sign.
The decision to leave out Mark Bresciano, the circumstances of which we are unaware, was one that was met with great surprise, given he has been our best player in recent matches by a great margin.
Any change of system after two years could have been seen as a panic move had it not made immediate improvements in the playing quality. With a week in camp to refine and work, the players understood their roles and responsibilities. Holger made the right call to have the international against UAE canned.
I couldn’t help but think that Iraq’s decision to play Brazil and concede six goals, not to mention huge amounts of energy, was not a clever one. With Australia’s more aged team we needed to enter the game as fresh as possible.
Having no crowd was also a bonus, particularly after conceding the goal. It's much easier to mount a comeback without the sort of atmosphere generated in Jordan.
Nevertheless, credit to the team for an exceptional fightback under any circumstances, especially away from home and under the most severe pressure imaginable and with the entire campaign on the line.
It was pleasing to see the direct aerial play mostly absent and the first real signs of better play through midfield in evidence, although in the final third, aside from two moments of penetration by Robbie Kruse and Matt McKay, we are mostly reliant on crosses and set pieces.
Crosses and set pieces produced immensely valuable goals in the end, but we will need to improve the combinations to achieve anything later against teams that are much stronger in the air.
The decisions to introduce Archie Thompson and Tommy Oar paid handsome dividends, the question now will be how the team should look in the coming games.
Oar will certainly be pushing for a starting spot, though he had only a cameo role. The performance of ex-Roar team-mates Oar and Kruse will allow Osieck more freedom to leave another Brisbane alumni Matt McKay in defence.
The football recently has been pretty ordinary, by the coach and players’ admission. Changes were needed to get the campaign back on track.
These were made, and were successful and this is where a coach earns his money - when the pressure is at its absolute greatest.
With one more win, the discussion will turn to how the team should look after the completion of the campaign. For now, this was a result achieved against the odds after falling behind and again built on the heart of the inimitable Timmy Cahill.
Brazil 2014 is back on the agenda. Amen to that.
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