Korea path: chance for fringe players to state their case

Posted on 27/04/2020 by

NO LUCAS NEILL. No Tim Cahill. No Harry Kewell. No Luke Wilkshire. No David Carney. No point in taking on South Korea on Saturday night?If Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek was looking to finetune his first-team line-up against difficult opposition in a testing environment, then the answer is no.But if he wants a serious examination of the strength in depth of his squad against Asia’s most successful footballing nation in its backyard, then there is every reason to do so.Australia cannot meet an Asian opponent until the knockout stages of the World Cup (the five Asian qualifiers will be kept separate in the draw for the group stages for South Africa 2010 later this year) and South Korea do not play in the style that potential African, South or Central American opponents might employ.But the Koreans are still a worthwhile workout at this stage of the preparation, given the high-energy, quick-tempo, industrious approach they employ.The Socceroos might not face the sort of physical challenge they would from another fixture against a European side, but their aerobic capacity, workrate and pace will be put under the microscope by the Koreans, who famously used a high-octane pressing game to overwhelm opponents in their famous run to the 2002 World Cup semi-finals.Back then, Guus Hiddink was in charge, with Verbeek as assistant, so the links between the two countries run deep even though they have not met since the 2001 Confederations Cup when South Korea defeated the Australians 1-0 in Seoul.Huh Jung-Moo’s team qualified for South Africa alongside their North Korean countrymen out of what was widely regarded as the more difficult Asian qualifying group. While Australia were dispatching the likes of Japan, Qatar and Bahrain, the South Koreans had to overcome not just North Korea but perennial Asian powerhouses Iran and 2007 Asian Cup finalists Saudi Arabia.That they went through the section undefeated says plenty about their quality even though, like Australia, they will be fielding an experimental line-up tomorrow night.For many of the players Verbeek has selected, there will be few better opportunities to promote their case for inclusion in the World Cup. He is unlikely to use European-based players for the Asian Cup qualifiers against Kuwait in January and Indonesia in March, so that leaves this game, the friendly against Holland in Sydney next month, October’s Melbourne Asian Cup qualifier against Oman and the return in Muscat in November for fringe players looking to cement a spot in the squad.Several have already emerged in the past few months: Rhys Williams, the Middlesbrough defender, had a shaky start against Japan at the MCG but then was much more assured in the impressive 3-0 win over Ireland in Limerick last month.Youngsters Dario Vidosic and Nikita Rukavytsya have both made the step up from the A-League in recent years, and are genuine chances to win selection as back-up strikers in South Africa. Vidosic left Brisbane and is making an impression in the Bundesliga for FC Nuremburg, for whom he played well at the weekend. Rukavytsya, the former Perth Glory frontman, boasts tremendous pace, and his game can only improve since his move to FC Twente in Holland.Mark Milligan, of Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua, and Patrick Kisnorbo, of Leeds United, have both recently been recalled from the international wilderness. This pair are playing for their clubs, and will be aiming to use this week to press their claims ahead of the likes of Michael Beauchamp, of Danish side Aalborg, Jade North, from Korean club Incheon, and Matthew Spiranovic, Vidosic’s teammate, who are not getting game time.Verbeek has said he will play Josh Kennedy and Scott McDonald together but most pundits do not expect the pragmatic Dutchman to depart from his 4-2-3-1 tactical style.
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