The three men who must fire for the Socceroos in Russia
With a squad worth a pittance compared with some of the powerhouses of world football, the Socceroos cannot rely on moments of genius or freakish skill to win14 June 2018 | Stuart Thomas
National team success is always reliant on unity, diligence and cohesion. Our best moments occur when a committed group of men work towards a common goal; resilience and persistence are our most admirable traits.
Sure, every now and again Tim Cahill produces the astonishing, and back in the day Charlie Yankos stunned us all when he thumped home from thirty yards. Even Ned Zelic once found a seemingly impossible avenue to goal.
However, in general, it is Australia’s footballing lot that determination, grit and patience are our most effective tools.
We are yet to discover our own Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. I’m sure we will in time but the tradesman approach will have to continue to serve us for the time being.
In a sense, we are a nation of footballing overachievers; a group of young men earning good incomes in international leagues all over the world yet always a rung or two down the ladder when it comes to sheer class.
As important as the sense of team may be, every squad is the sum of its parts. In Russia, a few of our parts will need to inspire.
To me, there are three men that need to be at their absolute best if Australia is to produce the football required to move beyond the group stage.
#1 Mathew Ryan
Let’s face it. The French will unleash a barrage at Ryan in Kazan. Whomever Les Bleus decide to play in the front third, he will be tested.
The Socceroos will be caught out at the back a few times, dangerous balls will pinball around the area waiting for a finishing foot and thumping shots will be launched from outside the box.
Ryan might need a little ‘Henry the Octopus’ of Wiggles fame about him to keep them out yet our keeper is more than capable. In a consistent Premier League season for Brighton, Ryan kept ten clean sheets and was statistically solid in terms of the different categories used to measure goal keeper performance.
Considering the lowly 15th finish of the Club, Ryan’s achievements were exceptional and resulted in 38 consecutive starts.
Brad Jones’ error on Sunday against Hungary merely highlights Ryan’s importance.
Sorry Maty but you are about to be bombarded by the French and potentially the Danes and Peruvians as well. Good luck, your performance goes a long way towards our success.
#2 Trent Sainsbury
Wearing the captain's armband for the first time in Austria as the Socceroos took on Czech Republic, the central defender looked proud.
Touted years back as an exceptional talent, the football journey of the man born in Thornlie, Western Australia has seen him become one of the most respected and admired players in the squad.
As if to fast track his development, Bert van Marwijk appears likely to throw him into the starting team in the problematic Socceroo defence that has been all the talk in recent times.
Ange Postecoglou’s adventure into the world of the back three ruffled the feathers of our defenders and frankly, caught a few out. Sadly, there appeared a flow on effect even when a more conservative setup was re-adopted.
It will be Sainsbury’s job to marshal the back four, potentially with Mark Milligan in his hip pocket and hopefully the four friendlies the Socceroos were granted by the FFA have provided enough time for the confidence to be rebuilt.
It is a lot to ask from a young man still learning his craft yet his role for the Socceroos will be key.
#3 Tom Rogic
Australian football has never been blessed with a vast number of men whom we could describe as international x-factor players. Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill and Mark Viduka might be the closest we have ever come to players deserving that moniker.
However, the Canberran is building a reputation as an enigmatic star, capable of producing special moments.
What a treat it is to wake to social media reports from the wee European hours of Rogic thumping home for Celtic and with 20 goals in his last seventy-five appearances in Scotland, the frequency of it has increased.
Still only 25, Rogic reeks of a player whose best is yet to come. What we would all give to see it produced on the world’s biggest footballing stage.
If the Socceroos’ recent struggles to hit the target consistently continue, our chances of progression are slim.
However, if Rogic finds his best and storms through the middle with his chin up, laying off to the front three, Australia might just be able to convert possession and position.
socceroos, mathew ryan, trent sainsbury, tom rogic, #russia2018, 2018 world cup