The latest rankings were released by FIFA over night and there were as always in the world of football quite a few surprises majority of them coming from the African Nations as the AFOCON Tournament drew to a close. Champions Cameroon (33) were the biggest movers and so to Egypt (23). However, closer to home, Australia has slipped a number of places Australia today rank 53 (you know it’s bad when you have to press ‘more’ as you are scrolling down).
It’s confusing to me because as Asian Champions (yes I’m playing that card) we should be in the top 30 and if you think I’m stretching it then at least top 40 with the squad we are able to assemble. We have a coach that changed our footballing mentality, changed (thank god) our style of play but more so, Ange Postecoglou has been so vocal in the sense that he too believes we should be among the ‘big boys’ and not (no offense) between Panama (53) and Albania (55).
If we look at the rankings for Asia we are fourth, too a ranking that should not sit well with us..(what is it with rankings and Australia).
2016 started out to be a great year for the Socceroos with our last loss recorded was back in October of 2015 against Jordan (0-2). We rapidly picked ourselves up after and strolled to six wins on the trot against Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Tajikistan, Jordan, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates.
Football is weird in the sense that when something is going really well you cannot go to la la land because something just has to interrupt your good run of form and if something does not then you are blessed by the football gods.
After those six wins on the trot the Socceroos were brought back to reality with three consecutive draws dropping vital points which doesn’t sound so bad but in the context of qualifying for the World Cup 2018 it’s a big deal.
Drawing against Saudi Arabia away (2-2), Japan at home (1-1) and Thailand (2-2) away should have been fixtures where we collected all nine points.
Questioning the team selection is a strong argument as Postecoglou remained quiet faithful to his team with the Matthew Ryan holding his spot, the defence also quite solid in Spiranovic, Smith and Sainsbury retaining their spots in those three fixtures, in midfield Mooy, Rogic, Luongo, Jedinak hold theirs, and going forward, Robbie Kruse, Leckie, Juric too.
Those players are the best we have right now to place in the starting XI however, it was clear to see during the matches (which were not pretty to watch) something was not working. This may be harsh in me saying this but Robbie Kruse has over stayed his welcome with the Socceroos. And, yes it is easy to blame one player but if we look specifically at the game with Japan Robbie gave us nothing.
In those three fixtures the only game with goals from open play came in that entertaining 2-2 draw away at Saudi Arabia. A result which was welcomed playing in such a hostile environment and too in tough conditions.
After that fixture it should have been a clean sweep of wins against Japan and Thailand.
2017 brings us more WCQ matches and then in June we have the Confederations Cup in Russia. A chance for more silverware (may be a long shot) against the top guns that are; Chile, Germany, Cameroon, Portugal, New Zealand, Russia.
Socceroos have been placed in Group B, Chile, Germany, Cameroon.
Going into this competition and seeing where we sit on qualifying to the World Cup is vital to ponder again with team selection and if not done by then, bring more life into the team. Ange has tried with McLaren, Burns, Giannou, Juric and Cahill coming off the bench but again no goals from them. It may be early to begin with impatience but we have the right to be.
As of right now the team seems stagnant. Goals are not coming from anyone, not even Cahill. Though in the next fixtures in March we have already been set back with an injury to Tom Rogic who will likely miss the March fixtures.
Wins have never been more important than now though we are third on nine points behind Japan and Saudi Arabia on 10 which doesn’t sound so bad. It is a nervous time and I don’t see Ange changing a squad that on their day is great and can get us over the line and if they don’t…well.
We have run out of time to experiment and now I believe is a time where how ever we get three points in the next two fixtures will not matter which in my opinion is a shame.