THE Socceroos fielded nine debutants in Wednesday night’s goalless draw with Indonesia but it was Adelaide left back Scott Jamieson who really stepped up to signal himself as a player with a genuine international future.
At 20, the youngster was the junior member of the starting line-up but his aggressive tackling, pace, enthusiasm and preparedness to get forward have made him an automatic choice at club level. Now the Sydney-born player is looking long term to cement a place in the Socceroos squad alongside the established players who were not selected for the Asian Cup qualifying Group B match.
"’I really enjoyed it – fantastic," said Jamieson, who will line up next Saturday for the Reds in the A-League semi-final against six of his Melbourne Victory international teammates.
"It was a special honour, one I will always remember. I didn’t think too much about it when I was out there, but the conditions were very difficult with the humidity. They were much harder than those I had experienced with Adelaide during the Asian Champions League when we played against teams like Kashima and Gamba.
"The pitch was terrible – I don’t think I have played on one as bad as that since the under-eights – but for my first performance I thought I did OK. I felt I adjusted to the different sort of style the Indonesians brought, but I know that for me there is still plenty of improvement to come and plenty of work to do on my game."
Following the Indonesia game, Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek will spend the next fortnight focusing on World Cup qualification. He will bring a vastly different Socceroos squad to Yokohama for the critical away tie with Japan on February 11.
With his first qualifying match for the 2011 Asian Cup now of the way, the Dutchman was happy enough to go home with a point.
It was, as Verbeek pointed out after the game played in Jakarta’s typically sticky conditions, a match neither side really deserved to win, a view endorsed by his captain Craig Moore.
"It’s a good start, not an ideal start, but a good start. International football is a big step up from club football, and it’s something they [the A-League players] have to learn very quickly," the experienced Queensland Roar centre back said.
Moore and Verbeek will be hoping that the cream of the A-League crop are eager students because, unless circumstances change dramatically, the coach is planning to use only Australian-based players again for the next Asian Cup qualifier, a home tie against Kuwait in Canberra on March 5.
That is another Asian Football Confederation scheduled fixture organised on a non-FIFA-sanctioned date, making it all but impossible for Verbeek to recall his Europe-based players.
This was also a game in which the coach would have learned plenty about the temperament of his A-League selection. Nine players earned their first caps, and the coach may have cause to review some reputations and enhance others.
While Indonesia looked sharp on the break in the first half and tried to impose themselves on the game in the second period, Australian goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic was rarely forced to make a difficult save.
Home coach Benny Dolo was pleased to have put on a fighting performance against opposition ranked more than 100 places ahead of his team on the FIFA ratings, while Verbeek had a pragmatic interpretation.
"I think this is the best result. I don’t think we deserved to win this game. I also think Indonesia made it very difficult for us in the first half by playing very compact and waiting for us and trying to come out fast. I think if you look at the chances over the whole game, I think 0-0 or at least a draw is the best result," the Socceroo boss said.
"I have seen some players play better. But they should look for the circumstances for us. We don’t use it as an excuse but it’s a different game. There is more pressure, it’s a fantastic atmosphere, the stadium and a big crowd, it’s a little bit different than what they are used to. If you look for that then I think we can be quite pleased with the performance of the team."
After taking a point in Jakarta in their first game in the Asian Cup qualifiers, the Socceroos are third in their group with a game in hand after Oman’s 1-0 away win over Kuwait lifted the Arab sultanate to the top of the table. Oman have four points from two games, Indonesia two points from two matches and the Socceroos one from one with Kuwait yet to open their account.
While an understrength Australia got a result, Japan were surprised 1-0 by Bahrain in their away Group A match after leaving their Europe-based stars out. The top two sides in each group qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup finals in Qatar.