THE Asian Cup qualifier against Indonesia was never likely to be one of Australia’s better performances, but it did begin to provide some answers to a few questions, namely:
■ How will A-League players cope with the pressures of international football?
■ What is the relative strength of the domestic competition?
■ How do Asian conditions affect the team?
■ How much does a lack of preparation affect the team?
■ How good are South-East Asian sides, especially in their own backyards?
In a nutshell, the answers are: a) Not too badly, some better than others;
b) Reasonably good; c) A lot; d) Greatly; e) Better than most people in Australia think.
The Socceroos, with their eye on the main game in Japan on February 11, were on a hiding to nothing in this match.
Expectations are often excessively high whether it’s the A-team, the B-team or the third stringers (the Jakarta ensemble was probably a mixture of the second two), turning out against the likes of Thailand, Oman, Bahrain, Singapore or Indonesia.
Football in South-East Asia is making big strides. No longer are these countries as tactically naive as they were 20 years ago. As money comes into the game and their economies develop, the level of football, and importantly coaching, improves.
Despite the physical disadvantages when facing bruisers like Matt Simon or Danny Allsopp, Asian players are becoming less intimidated.
Pim Verbeek would have learnt a lot about the ability of his players to cope with testing conditions, and picked up clues to their mental strengths.
Some performances by the younger brigade would have impressed. Scott Jamieson, 20, showed he was a worthy inclusion, especially as he plays in the problematic left-back position, while Melbourne’s Billy Celeski, 23, looked tidy when he came on.
Michael Zullo had a short cameo but at 20 there is plenty of time for the winger to prove his worth. Simon bashed and crashed up front, had a goal disallowed for offside and looked more threatening than Allsopp, while Eugene Galekovic made a solid start in goal.