Maybe it was the Sydney Live Earth concert that set the theme for the Socceroos Asian Cup opener against Oman because Lucas Neill and his boys looked like they were all for practicing energy conservation on the field. Energy offsets anyone? Al Gore would have been impressed by the Socceroos embracing his message but their fans were left quite blue by their low wattage performance.
I think the problem is that the attack with luminaries like Harry Kewell, Timmy Cahill, Mark Viduka, and Mark Bresciano, have been consuming all the media space, leaving the defense largely ignored. Yesterday, the Socceroos found out that they also have to play good defense against a determined and opportunistic Omani attack, which caught veterans Emerton, Neill, and newbie Patrick Kisnorbo frequently flatfooted. It was left to Mark Schwarzer to make the goal score look respectable. The Boro man produced another outstanding set of saves to keep the ball from the net. Full points to Oman as they kept the Socceroos in their shell.
Veterans Emerton, Neill, Viduka have made a living skating away in the cool and dim pastures of England as it were. The heat index in SE Asia is beyond that familiar climate control. This has become a frequently cited issue and a potential stumbling block on their way to the finals. Their caution in playing such conditions might be a continued problem against Iraq and Thailand, who have no doubt taken note of the ginger Socceroos. The next matches call for young guns who motor and I feel strongly that Archie Thompson and Nicky Carle should get the start. Graham Arnold should not expect Tim Cahill to pull one out of the hat all the time. Thailand and Iraq's match pulled to a draw, 1-1 leaving no one in Group A out in front. So this group is wide open.
Thailand, one of the hosts and with some of the most passionate fans, could pull off an upset with a hard running performance. Iraq's coach Jovan Vieira has mentioned his team's unimaginable difficulties preparing for the Asian Cup which leaves one with nothing but admiration for the Iraq team's grit. Anything that gives a psychological edge might be important since the Socceroos seem to have made their psyche an issue.
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