High profile football coach and commentator Gary Phillips reflects on the action from the FIFA World Cup.
High profile football coach and commentator Gary Phillips reflects on the action from the FIFA World Cup. Trevor Veale

Socceroos play Russian roulette

WITH the World Cup dominating sporting headlines across the globe, we thought we'd turn one of the region's most esteemed football personalities, coaches and commentators for his thoughts.

Gary Phillips shares his opinion on the action so far and what the Socceroos need to do to secure passage through to the round of 16.

Here's Gary's take on the Cup.

 

KAZAN, RUSSIA - JUNE 17:  Massimo Lungo and Jackson Irvine of Australia train during an Australia Socceroos training session at Stadium Trudovye Rezervy on June 17, 2018 in Kazan, Russia.  (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
KAZAN, RUSSIA - JUNE 17: Massimo Lungo and Jackson Irvine of Australia train during an Australia Socceroos training session at Stadium Trudovye Rezervy on June 17, 2018 in Kazan, Russia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images) Robert Cianflone

THE world's biggest event always provokes unparalleled discussion, debate and divide.

Even in a country full of other codes. Love it.

With President Putin in the stands the pressure on the host nation would have been immense.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on a video screen prior the group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia which opened the 2018 soccer World Cup. Picture: AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin
Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on a video screen prior the group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia which opened the 2018 soccer World Cup. Picture: AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin

Now with Uruguay the Russians are set for the next phase of the tournament.

Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after scoring a goal
Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after scoring a goal

Portugal was also under pressure given they are current European Champions.

What is always fascinating at all big tournaments is the evolution of systems/formations and styles of play when attacking or defending, the contrasts influenced by coaches, cultures or a clear national philosophies. Coaches will all agree (and for the next month everyone is a coach) these subtleties have already produced some brilliant entertaining football.

Who else can't sleep?

 

Mexico's counter attacking play with purpose and precision was brilliant.

Particularly given it was against a supreme footballing nation like Germany and they should have won by more such was their explosive transitional play from central areas.

Portugal set up was similar to Mexico but slightly deeper and counter attacked Spain with power and pace. The game is about so much more than just possession.

 

Morocco was sensational against Portugal if only they had a Ronaldo to find the net.

Our Socceroos were solid if not brilliant v France in a very tough assignment.

A respectable performance but not the result we wanted or maybe deserved.

Our man leading the line, Andrew Nabbout in his first world cup appearance was selfless in his role and pressed France at every opportunity denying quality service into the likes of Pogba, Kante and Griezmann or any of their multi million-dollar players.

A devasted Andrew Nabbout after he dislocated his shoulder during the 1-1 draw. Picture: Toby Zerna
A devasted Andrew Nabbout after he dislocated his shoulder during the 1-1 draw. Picture: Toby Zerna

Equal energy from the Australian midfield squeezed the life out of the French as they struggled to control the tempo and uncharacteristically the ball.

In the Socceroos camp the post game focus had already shifted to Denmark, after a post match recovery session the following day was 'active recovery' before the team had dinner together and watched Denmark v Peru while the coaching staff analysed the Danes in much more detail.

Daily skin folds, weighing and hydration is recorded daily in camp but time between games, meals, massage and team meetings can be slow and with the likes of Tim Cahill ready to pounce its important you are good at table tennis, X box or cards otherwise you might need a winning bonus to cover your losses!

Andrew Nabbout is still being given a hard time in camp after his 'song of choice' 'Sweet Child of Mine' (Socceroo initiation introduced by Ange Postecoglou new 'boys' must sing a song) but if Nabbout scores rest assured he will be singing all night! Sadly an injury may now deny him that opportunity.

In game 2 the Socceroos WOW what an impressive performance against Denmark.

The back four superb, the midfield dominated, Nabbout and Kruse were constant threats and Leckie was a different level.

But this is why the big clubs of the world pay insane dollars for the likes of Ronaldo, Messi or Neymar. They score goals.

Imagine Kewell and Viduka leading our line or maybe, just maybe Tim Cahill?

Particularly after the Andrew Nabbout shoulder dislocation (this same injury has kept him sidelined for his club in Japan recently and now requires surgery).

As for Cahill, the Australian coaching staff would have plans in place well before kick off for many different tactical situations. Under van Marwijk mobile players appear to be the preferred option. But rest assured if Cahill does get a chance he will cause problems.

Against Peru we will need legs.

Christian Eriksen of Denmark is tackled by Christian Ramos of Peru (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Christian Eriksen of Denmark is tackled by Christian Ramos of Peru (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Peru looks quick, mobile and technically they have flair, innovation and unpredictability typical South American qualities.

Regardless of standings or the situation in the group both teams have pride and passion and will always want to win.

Peru only had one second half shot on goal against France but they caused the world number 7 ranked team a number of problems.

We need a big result to progress but will need extreme discipline just to get the points.

Surely it’s Timmy time, given Peru’s struggles with the aerial ball. Picture: Getty Images
Surely it’s Timmy time, given Peru’s struggles with the aerial ball. Picture: Getty Images

Changes to the Australian line up for the final group game will be minimal, Dutch are historically stubborn and to be fair no player deserves to miss out.

Australia is a world leader in sports science and the recovery processes will be key to maintaining freshness and energy vital to compete with a mobile pacey Peru.

A coaches tactical awareness and flexibilities will be critical to success in this tournament however having said that, even the best coaches in the world will always admit to one critical factor, having the best players.

Russia 2018 has been thrilling and it will continue to provide drama and across the world it will touch every possible human emotion. In a modern world where reality TV shows dominates the modern family this is reality TV at is very best.

2022 in Qatar will have another level of expectation, America, Mexico and Canada in 2026 but with 6 continents typically used on rotational basis, Qatar is in the same Asian Confederation as Australia it will be agonising wait until our nation can host the worlds biggest event.

To leave you with more discussion, debate, divide or divorce: VAR (much maligned Video Assistant Referee) or the 38-year-old Russian defender who came out of retirement to play in the World Cup, the failed Iranian 'front flip' thrown in, VAR, distance travelled by Socceroos to qualify for the World Cup, the Ronaldo hattrick v Spain & four goals in 94 minutes, USA TV audience peaks at 8 million viewers and they did not qualify, Russia scoring five, Tim Cahill, Iceland first ever World Cup, VAR, More Socceroo support staff (34+) than players (23) travelling with Socceroos, Germany lose, hot dogs and a Coca Cola costs $1.50 in Russia, or 19 year-old Socceroo Daniel Arzani on arrival at his first World Cup press conference and seeing 100s of journalists, 'Jesus Christ' this is pretty cool' and oh did I mention VAR? 

Gary Phillips is a former Fox Sports Commentator, Former Australian U17 Coach, Head Coach National League Champions (Sydney Olympic), Head Coach W- League (Newcastle Jets), Assistant Matildas Coach, FFA Advanced Coach Education Instructor, a player who racked up almost 400 national league appearances and North Coast Football's Technical Director.



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