World Cup 2006


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    Articles related to OCEANIA 2006 WC qualifiers:

    Preview Apr 25, 2004
    Preview May 27, 2004
    Update May 30, 2004
    Update Jun 2, 2004
    Update Jun 4, 2004
    Update Jun 6, 2004
    Wrap-up Jun 28, 2004
    Update Sep 4, 2005
    Wrap-up Sep 19, 2005
    Preview Nov 8, 2005
    Update Nov 13, 2005
    Update Nov 16, 2005




    Update: OFC qualifiers, Stage 2, Day 1 - Advantage Australia

    by Paul Marcuccitti

    Vanuatu 0 Solomon Islands 1 (HT 0-0)
    Tahiti 0 Fiji 0 (HT 0-0)
    Australia 1 New Zealand 0 (HT 1-0)

        An adequate performance by the Socceroos has them in pole position for a spot in both the Oceania Nations Cup Final and the Final of the Oceania World Cup qualifiers.

        Australian coach Frank Farina has Parma midfielder Marco Bresciano to thank for these 3 important points but Farina might be a little worried about the Socceroos recent inability to score in open play.

        The absence of Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell and Paul Agostino undoubtedly weakens the team’s attack, but, nonetheless, Australia has only scored twice in its three recent home matches – once from the penalty spot in a 1-3 loss to Turkey and it took a sensational Bresciano free kick to break the deadlock against New Zealand.

        Australia will probably find the back of the net more easily against the other Oceania teams currently in Adelaide but the Socceroos will definitely need a sharper edge up forward in later matches in order to reach Germany 2006.

        Australia started brightly against traditional rival New Zealand. The Socceroos dominated the first 10 minutes with both Josip Skoko and Marco Bresciano forcing saves out of Kiwi goalkeeper Mark Paston.

        New Zealand’s best moment in the first half came in the 21st minute when Vaughan Coveny forced Aussie ‘keeper Zeljko Kalac into an uncomfortable save just a minute after John Aloisi had shot wide at the other end. Max Vieri, starting a match for Australia for just the second time, headed straight at Paston in the 32nd minute and hit the crossbar 5 minutes later.

        Australia finally scored in the 40th minute with Bresciano’s wonderful effort and the home side took the 1-0 lead into the half time break. The Socceroos looked impressive going forward, especially on the wings. Brett Emerton consistently threatened on the right hand side and crowd favourite Stan Lazaridis delighted with his surging runs down the left.

        New Zealand (wearing unfamiliar red and blue while Australia was in an equally unfamiliar predominantly white strip) had been starved of possession and, consequently, the red and blue clad “All Whites” launched few attacks in the first half.

        The second half followed the pattern of the first. New Zealand was forced to defend desperately in the opening ten minutes as Australia looked for the insurance of a second goal. The Kiwis, constantly under pressure in midfield, were happy to try their luck with long balls and in the 59th minute Vaughan Coveny missed a golden opportunity presented to him by a moment of confusion between Zeljko Kalac and the Socceroo defence. It would be New Zealand’s last real chance.

        After the scare, Lazaridis forced another save out of Mark Paston after a tremendous run and Brett Emerton and substitute Mile Sterjovski both missed late chances to seal the victory. In the end, one goal was enough for the Aussies.

        The New Zealanders now have to ensure that they don’t have any slip-ups in their next 4 games. They were very disciplined and coherent despite the fact that they haven’t played an international since late last year. Simon Elliott and Ivan Vicelich battled hard in midfield and the Kiwis’ relatively inexperienced defence did well to continually repel Australia’s attacks in a match which the Socceroos were overwhelmingly favoured to win.

        The first match of the day was between the two Stage 1 group winners: Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.

        The Solomons were on top in the early exchanges with Vanuatu content to try and break quickly out of defence. There were few scoring chances and an uneventful first half ended goalless. A 13th minute shot by Solomon Islands midfielder Stanley Waita and one in the 38th minute from Vanuatu’s Etienne Mermer had been the best efforts on goal in the first 45 minutes. Both defences were dominant – George Suri played extremely well in the heart of the Solomons’ back four and Vanuatu defender Lexa Bule Bibi was equally impressive.

        Young Alick Maemae had looked dangerous on the left of Solomon Islands’ midfield and, slowly, Henry Fa’arodo was starting to make an impression. Early in the second half, Australian-based Fa’arodo earned a penalty for the Solomons after he was brought down in the 18 yard box. Captain Batram Suri converted the spot kick in the 51st minute with a high shot past Vanuatu’s ‘keeper (and captain) David Chilia.

        Though Vanuatu tried to hit back in the next few minutes, it was the Solomons who were more likely to score again in the second half. Their impressive passing game kept Vanuatu under constant pressure. Batram Suri was extremely influential in much of the Solomons’ good work. They could have had a second through substitute Jack Samani but his 78th minute shot was saved by David Chilia.

        Vanuatu’s Uruguayan coach Carlos Buzzeti brought teenage ace Jean Emmanuel Maleb on in the 75th minute in the hope of finding an equaliser. Maleb looked sharp and made a bit of an impact – you have to wonder why he wasn’t introduced sooner. The final score of 1-0 means that the Solomon Islands are level with Australia at the top of the group.

        The day’s other match was a hard-fought 0-0 draw between Tahiti and Fiji.

        The Tahitians had the better of the early exchanges and in the 8th minute Taufa Neuffer missed a great chance from close range. Five minutes later, Vincent Simon shot a free kick just over the crossbar.

        Though neither team looked particularly cohesive, what chances there were seemed to fall Tahiti’s way. Another free kick in the 30th minute by Farahia Teuira needed a fine save from Fijian goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau.

        Fiji found some rhythm in the second half and began to dominate possession. Fiji’s star Esala Masi and young forward Veresa Toma were both lifting but too often a string of excellent passes was undone by a poor final ball. In the 75th minute, a Masi free kick finally forced a sharp save out of Tahiti’s goalkeeper, Daniel Tapeta. Masi just missed with a superb effort from another free kick in injury time.

        So it’s advantage Australia – and the Solomon Islands – after day one of Oceania Stage 2. But where are the goals, guys? Only two in three matches and neither in open play. Hmmm, that’s not the Oceania I remember!

        But there are reasons. The four qualifiers from Stage 1 haven’t played in the uninhibited style they’re renowned for. Instead they’ve been highly organised and disciplined; chances have been few and far between. It’s a bit sad to see. But if that organisation and discipline represents a genuine sign of progress from the South Pacific nations, you won’t hear any complaints from me. Greater competitiveness can only benefit the confederation and its members.


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