OPINION: Osieck selects on names, not form

OPINION: Osieck selects on names, not form

OPINION - Ryan Steele

After the 2-0 defeat to Denmark over the weekend, there has been speculation over Osieck’s recent Socceroos selections, with many criticising the lack of young up-and-comers in the training camp and that the man in Australia’s top job has instead opted for a list with a bias towards reputation.

Socceroos coach Holger Osieck

Melbourne Victory’s veteran striker Archie Thompson begs to disagree with the criticism. He believes that selecting based on reputation is a thing of the past in the Osieck-era. “In the past it’s been pretty much about names and now I think it’s more about performances and he gives you the confidence,” Thompson recently told the media from Socceroos camp.

But couldn’t that be considered hypocritical? Can Archie really believe this when he, himself, has not been in form this year, 2012, let alone this past season? Or is Archie just playing teacher’s pet to try to earn at least one more cap before he hangs up his boots?

Despite being out of season with his club for the last two months, Thompson started in the game against Denmark and played for almost an hour on the left wing before being substituted for new Bunyodkor signing David Carney, who has been battling for solid fitness after returning from injury. The one game Thompson had played in that time is a friendly against Greek giants Olympiakos.

Following that game, new Melbourne Victory boss Ange Postecoglou cited the striker’s performance as justification for him to be selected for the Socceroos camp. But does that really constitute good form coming into a crucial stage of World Cup qualifying? With a game just around the corner against Asian heavyweights Japan, just how much has form been taken into consideration when selecting the current 25-man Socceroos side?

Defender Matthew Spiranovic has been long-out of favour with his Japanese club, Urawa Red Diamonds, not appearing in any of their 13 league games to date and appearing in only two of their four cup matches, one of which resulting in a sending off in the 81st minute after clumsily collecting two yellow cards. The product of Geelong started and played the full game for Australia against Denmark, conceding a penalty and almost gifted Denmark a third goal.

Fellow Japan-based defender Jade North has had a tough time with recently-promoted Consadole Sapporo, who currently sit bottom of the J. League, and has put in uninspiring performances in his last two games against the Danes and Saudi Arabia. Nagoya Grampus striker Joshua Kennedy has also joined the Socceroos camp after playing just two club matches since his return from a back injury, not scoring in either of the club’s losses.

On top of players being selected without solid evidence of form, Holger Osieck has been previously quoted as saying he doesn’t need to see Socceroos captain Lucas Neill play in order to warrant selection.

While we can all agree that friendlies, in the long run, don’t mean a great deal and are the best platform for testing new tactics and different positions for the players involved, supporters are still hungry to win every game, regardless of stature, and a loss can be shattering to morale. Neither names nor form will guarantee a win, particularly at International level.

There is no doubt that some players are selected on form, such as Socceroos stalwart Mark Schwarzer, first-choice ‘keeper for Premier League side Fulham, who could arguably also claim to have been selected on reputation based on that sole fact. That doesn’t mean either of these apply to the whole selection. It’s arguably best, if anything, to have a mixture of both form and experience in the squad, particularly when younger players are introduced to representing their nation for the first time.

We’ll continue to see criticisms of Osieck’s selections - it’s the nature of any football supporter - but it’s difficult to really pick apart a selection after just one friendly. Let’s wait to see how his selection fares in these crucial qualifiers before we really stick in that knife.

Ryan is a young football coach and analyst who has worked in different countries throughout Asia

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