Australia V Uruguay - 2nd Leg Preview
For either Australia or Uruguay tonight is the night that will decide their World Cup finals hopes for Germany 2006. David Cooper previews tonight’s clash.
For either Australia or Uruguay tonight is the night that will decide their World Cup finals hopes for Germany 2006. David Cooper previews tonight-s clash.
Uruguay-s Alvaro Recoba says it-s his country-s divine right to be at the World Cup finals, given their proud history in the competition, as two-time winner of the competition.
Well, unfortunately for them they don-t have a divine right, as for every country that thinks they have a divine right to be at the World Cup, we might as well shut up shop and not have World Cup qualification.
The Uruguayans hold a 1-0 advantage going into the second leg at Telstra Stadium, with Australia needing to win by two goals to reach only their second World Cup finals.
Despite the loss, the performance by Australia was very encouraging, especially in the first half when they dominated much of the play and were unlucky not to have a goal to their name.
While Uruguay upped the urgency in the second half looking for a killer second goal, after striking late in the first half, the Australian defence showed a lot of determination to hold out the frequent Uruguay attacks, especially in those final 10 minutes or so.
Mark Schwarzer made several telling saves in the match and will again play a key role tonight, especially from the set pieces that are arguably the Uruguayans main route to goal.
Most of the best chances for Uruguay in Montevideo came from set pieces, which included their goal scored by defender Dario Rodriguez. Recoba, a dead-ball specialist, was a constant menace when in range and Australian will need to be wary of conceding free kicks around the penalty area.
It is expected that Uruguay will make several changes for this match with key duo Diego Lugano and Gustavo Varela expected to come back into the side. Lugano is likely to get the job of stopping Australian captain Mark Viduka, who had the better of Diego Lopez in Montevideo. Lopez eventually had to limp off midway through the second half and must be considered doubtful considering the short turnaround in matches, which included a long flight.
Varela is likely to come into the midfield in place off Carlos Perez, another move that would add argument that Uruguay will play more conservatively to hold onto their lead.
Uruguay will deny this, but if their results from their South American qualifiers is any guide - six draws and three losses from nine away matches - it doesn-t exactly translate to attacking football. They could in theory come out and try to blow us away early on, as a goal will then mean Australia has to score three goals to win, based on the away goals rule scenario. If that happens, then you can bet your bottom dollar that the Uruguayan goal will be harder to break through than the Great Wall of China.
Jorge Fossati, Uruguay-s outspoken coach, is likely to still play two strikers with either Marcelo Zalayeta or Dario Silva to play alongside Richard Morales (pictured left), whose aerial threat is seen as serious threat on the Australia goal.
They will look to play on the counter-attack, trying to find space with Australia pushing forward looking for goals. This is where Recoba is very dangerous and why Guus Hiddink must make sure there is a plan to stop his effectiveness.
Several times in the first leg he managed to get in behind the Australian defence and failed to capitalise, but if given enough chances, he is likely to make you pay. I would think Vince Grella, who was one of Australia-s best in the first leg, will get the task of shadowing him as much as possible, although if he goes wide, the wide defenders will need to take over.
Tony Popovic did a remarkable job in containing Morales in Uruguay and will be better off for the run after not playing for quite sometime with his English club Crystal Palace. He will again get the job of holding the tall striker and try to limit his effectiveness at set pieces, where he is extremely dangerous.
If Popovic was beaten in the air by Morales, Lucas Neill, playing in an unaccustomed role in the centre of defence, was often covering in behind, while Tony Vidmar-s experience was evident in the tense final 15 minutes of the match, with several well-timed tackles and calming influence.
While keeping Uruguay scoreless is one dilemma that Hiddink faces, the other is more crucial - scoring goals. This is essential if we are to even contemplate going to ‘The Big Show-.
Given Hiddink-s statements, there is little doubt that some changes will be made on this front with the likes of Marco Bresciano, John Aloisi and Tim Cahill all in with a chance of coming into the side.
Which way Hiddink will go, nobody knows for certain, as each offers something a little different to the team. In his final press conference, Hiddink gave no clues, but you can be rest assured he and his technical staff have worked everything out to the empth degree.
One factor that will come into play is how Harry Kewell has pulled after playing his first full 90 minute game in the first leg, since returning from a serious groin injury. It will have taken its toll on him and then when you add a long flight of around 22 hours on top of that, his powers of recovery will be tested.
Archie Thompson started in Montevideo, but after a strong opening half an hour, his influence became increasingly limited and was replaced soon after half time by Bresciano, who almost immediately added a spark to the attack.
Bresciano (pictured right) showed no signs of the ill-effects of an ankle injury that saw him most of the lead-up, in the week before the first leg and has looked good at training upon return to Australia.
One other aspect of Bresciano-s game that could influence Hiddink to play him is his ability from the dead-ball.
Aloisi, who plies his trade in Spain, one, if not the toughest league in the world, could perhaps get a start alongside Mark Viduka up front. He would take the pressure of Viduka and as we saw at the Confederations Cup in Germany this year, knows how to score if given a sniff at goal.
Possibly the biggest trump card though is Cahill. Not risked in the first game, because of yellow cards, Cahill would provide an aerial presence in the box that was seriously lacking in the first leg.
A box-to-box player, who gets back and does his share of defending, Cahill has become renowned for his late runs into the box and scoring vital goals. He also plays it hard and against the tough Uruguayans, Hiddink will need players that will not shirk the issue. There is also no doubt that he would love to play a huge role in his home town.
I would expect Jason Culina to keep his place and get forward more than he did in the first leg, as he played deeper than usual, with Kewell pushing the more attacking option. Against Jamaica he was outstanding and could be the person that could unlock the Uruguayan defence, either with a neat pass or a goal himself.
Out wide, Scott Chipperfield and Brett Emerton are likely to continue their roles as wing-backs, getting forward to provide width and also covering as a fourth defender, depending on which side the ball is on.
Chipperfield was excellent in the first leg, while I would like to see Emerton try to beat his man and get the ball over from the by-line more. When he does that and gets over a cross for the likes of Viduka and possibly a Cahill, if selected, Australia is likely to get the goal it needs. The other bonus is that both players know how to score goals, especially from around the edge of the box.
One of the other key factors that might play a role in tonight-s match is how the teams recovered from the long flights from Montevideo.
Having arrived on Monday morning, for many people the effects of jet lag only start to kick in several days later, especially those who are unfortunate to travel in economy class, which is how Uruguay apparently had to fly. They had a race to get here and basically their recovery from the game would have only started once they landed in Sydney.
Australia on the other hand, having been forced to book a charter flight, was able to recover on the flight with the plane fully equipped with massage tables and plenty of ice for any injuries. This meant that once Australia landed they had in effect already completed their recovery and could get straight into training with a fresh approach.
If the game goes into extra-time, which is a very real possibility, I would expect the Australians to be stronger physically and this is where they could really win the game.
The X-factor is the Australian crowd. They can play a huge part in making sure the players know the team is behind them. When they walk out, they will hopefully see a stadium full of gold shirts that cheers them on when they are attacking and lets the Uruguayans know about it whenever they have possession.
Tonight though is game for cool heads and if Hiddink manor is anything to go by, the players know what their task ahead is and will stick to Hiddink-s game plan. And why wouldn-t they, Hiddink has taken teams to the last two World Cup semi finals.
GO THE Socceroos