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 3, 1st Leg
by Paul Marcuccitti
Australia 7 Solomon Islands 0 (HT 3-0)
When the 2nd stage of Oceania qualifiers concluded in June of last year, I
was quite excited. Vanuatu had defeated New Zealand, and Solomon Islands
drew with Australia. The outcome - the Solomons qualifying for the 3rd stage
at the Kiwis' expense - was a departure from the tradition of Australia and
New Zealand, New Zealand and Australia.
The competition was probably designed with the expectation that Oceania's
big two would be the last teams standing. When the round robin 2nd stage (of
6 teams) was played in Adelaide, the top 2 nations were to qualify for both
the final of the Oceania Nations Cup and the final stage of Oceania World
Cup qualifiers. The other 4 would be eliminated from both competitions.
Solomon Islands' shock 2nd place ahead of New Zealand was wonderful in the
sense that it provided Oceania with a rare upset and a story. Perhaps there
was/is also some hope of the Pacific nations becoming more competitive.
But even before Australia rattled 7 goals past the Solomons in the first leg
of the playoff to decide which Oceanic team would win the right to play
decisive qualifiers against the 5th best team in South America, a few
realities had set in.
The realities included the easy 11-1 aggregate victory Australia had over
the Solomon Islands a year ago in the final of the Oceania Nations Cup which
qualified the Socceroos for the Confederations Cup. The realities included
the near full strength team that Australia would field (as opposed to the
highly weakened side that drew 2-2 with the Solomons in Adelaide last year
when Australia had already qualified for this 3rd stage). The realities
included the Socceroos' superior preparation: we've been playing Germany and
Argentina at the Confederations Cup; the Solomons have had a handful of
matches in New Zealand (which included a 4-0 loss to New Zealand Knights,
one of the clubs in Australia's new national league).
Yes folks, I fell back into the sort of pessimism that the Oceania
Confederation wins awards for generating. Aren't I a miserable sod?
From Australia's point of view, the good news is that these games against
the Solomons will be an Oceanic swansong. Australia will be attempting to
qualify for the 2010 World Cup finals as members of the Asian Confederation.
Things might have been a little different if the first match was in Honiara.
Although conventional wisdom is that it's better to play away first and home
second, it would probably have been better for the Solomons to start this
series at home. An opening match in the tropics would have been more likely
to produce a scare for the Aussies.
The main point of interest in the lead up to the Australia-Solomons clashes
was the "Guus factor". Yes, as you might have heard, Mr "just call me Aussie
Gus" Hiddink now has an extra part-time job having taken over as coach of
the Socceroos after the departure of Frank Farina. Hiddink began his tenure
by cancelling a Friendly and using the most recent international date for a
training camp with the Australian players. It was a good move - Australia
was not short of match practice after the Confederations Cup and building a
relationship with the whole squad was probably a more valuable exercise.
The Solomons also have a different coach from the one that masterminded
their success in Adelaide last year. Savvy Englishman Alan Gillett is no
longer at the helm and he's been replaced by Airton Andrioli, a Brazilian
who played in Australia's old National Soccer League and who is now in his
second stint as the Solomons' coach.
One of the biggest problems the islanders faced was the gap in preparation.
Indeed, the Solomons were better prepared for the series in June of last
year. Before that week, they had played 4 matches in the 1st Stage of
Oceania World Cup qualifiers and, not long before that, they had played two
Friendlies in Vanuatu. This time they came to Australia on the back of just
three games in New Zealand. Sadly, a couple of Friendlies against old rivals
Fiji were cancelled.
The Solomons had not played a full international since meeting Australia in
the final of the Oceania Nations Cup a year ago. (In the same period, the
Socceroos had played 8 times, including 3 matches at the recent
Confederations Cup in Germany.) It's the same unfortunate story - lack of
The islanders had more troubles on the pitch. At the 11th hour, they
discovered that striker Commins Menapi, scorer of both Solomons goals in the
famous 2-2 draw with Australia, was suspended for the match. Replacing
Menapi up forward was the less experienced (but delightfully named) Kidstone
Billy. Teenager Judd Molea, who starred in the recent Oceania qualifiers for
the FIFA Under 17 World Championship, was part of the squad but did not get
Another member of the team's "fab four", captain Batram Suri, carried an
injury into the match. The other two standout players, Henry Fa'arodo and
Alick Maemae started at right midfield and left midfield respectively. I
immediately felt it was a mistake for Andrioli to play Fa'arodo out wide.
The Solomons were always going to have trouble retaining the ball in the
middle of the park and that's where he should have been.
For its part, Australia was able to field a stronger team from the one that
couldn't beat the Solomons in Adelaide. In came Mark Schwarzer (goalkeeper,
Middlesbrough); Lucas Neill (defender, Blackburn Rovers); Tony Popovic
(defender, Crystal Palace); Tony Vidmar (defender, NAC Breda); Scott
Chipperfield (midfielder, FC Basel); Jason Culina (midfielder, Twente
Enschede); and Mark Viduka (forward, Middlesbrough).
Parma midfielders Marco Bresciano and Vince Grella were also available and
both came on as substitutes. Only 3 likely starting players were missing
through injury: Craig Moore (defender, Newcastle United); Stan Lazaridis
(defender/midfielder, Birmingham City); and Harry Kewell
The game was played in Sydney at the very same stadium that Australia played
a 1993 World Cup qualifier against an Argentinean team containing a certain
Mr DA Maradona. Aussie goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer did not play in that match
but, that year, he had played in an earlier sudden death World Cup qualifier
against Canada. It was in that match that he went from young, little-known
goalkeeper (and the Socceroos' 3rd choice custodian) to national hero with
an excellent save in a penalty shootout. To add to the nostalgia, sitting a
few metres away from me was Rale Rasic, the man who coached Australia at the
1974 World Cup finals in West Germany.
Onto the match itself and perhaps the most desperate scribble on my little
notepad reads as follows, "64th minute, 5-0 Australia, please can they stop
For much of the first half, the Solomons looked like they might avoid
suffering a massive defeat but after Australia scored its 3rd goal just
before half time, the islanders lost discipline and confidence.
The Solomons opened well against a confident and purposeful Australia. The
Socceroos, under Hiddink for the first time, had switched to a 3-5-2
formation. Australia had chances in the opening 20 minutes but they were
mainly long-range shots. The Solomons had crowded the penalty box and,
although their players made some mistakes, they certainly didn't lack
Australia's first goal came less than a minute after the Solomons' first
attack and shot! Admittedly it was a tame effort by Mahlon Houkarawa but
soon the ball was up the other end and Jason Culina opened the scoring with
a beautiful strike after he was teed up by Tim Cahill.
Still, the Solomons didn't lose too much heart after Australia's first went
in. There were one or two moments of unnecessary panic, but the players
stuck to the plan. They were even determined to play their way out of
defence and not just hoof the ball anywhere (although that sometimes meant
getting caught in possession). Houkarawa was a standout and goalkeeper
Francis Aruwafa also started well with some fine saves. Aruwafa was
preferred to Felix Ray Jr who had done quite well in the Stage 2 qualifiers.
Sadly the 2nd half would be a disaster for the Solomons' 'keeper.
After more attacking pressure, Australia finally made it 2-0 in the 36th
minute but it took a wonder goal from Mark Viduka, the Socceroos' captain on
the night, to double the Aussies' advantage. After the ball lobbed up from a
heading contest, Viduka executed a perfect bicycle kick. I hope the footage
got to PWC's No. 1 bicycle kick fan, Peter Goldstein. You'll see few better.
In the 43rd minute, Viduka scored again, this time meeting a superb Josip
Skoko cross with a strong header. Less than a minute earlier, Batram Suri
succumbed to injury and was substituted. It was in that minute that the
match ceased to be any sort of contest.
At the start of the second half, Solomon Islands coach, Airton Andrioli,
brought Stanley Waita on for Alick Maemae. Maybe Maemae was injured, but it
seemed another strange decision. At least the resulting reshuffle of
positions brought Fa'arodo into a more central role and in the opening
exchanges of the second half, Fa'arodo looked lively and creative. He even
forced Mark Schwarzer into making a real save, the only one the Aussie
'keeper would make all night.
In the 53rd minute, disaster struck for the Solomons. Young defender, Nelson
Sale Kilifa, who had played well at times, needlessly kicked Jason Culina
and earned himself a red card. The Solomons had had enough problems keeping
Australia at bay and now the onslaught would be even more emphatic.
In the 57th minute, Guus Hiddink brought Marco Bresciano on for Tony
Popovic, a midfielder for a defender, sensing the chance to put the 2nd leg
well out of the Solomons' reach. Almost immediately, a Tim Cahill header
made it 4-0. Aruwafu should have dealt with the header easily but the
'keeper made a complete mess of it. Cahill had deserved the goal as he had
been at the heart of so much of Australia's attacking thrusts.
Hiddink's next move was to bring striker John Aloisi off and replace him
with Archie Thompson. Aloisi hadn't played at all badly but it's ironic that
the player who recently put 4 goals past Germany and Argentina didn't score
against the Solomon Islands.
You might know that Archie Thompson is famous for scoring 13 goals in a
single World Cup qualifier. That, of course, happened in a certain match
between Australia and American Samoa in the last World Cup and I'm rather
glad that Australia's move to Asia means mismatches like that should be a
thing of the past.
More importantly, Thompson plays his club football in Australia's new
national competition, the A-League, and the crowd appreciated that a player
based in Australia could take his place among the European-based Socceroos.
He nearly scored with his first opportunity but his header was narrowly
Scott Chipperfield made it 5-0 in the 64th minute with a fine long-range
strike. But it was another shot that Aruwafu should have saved. The Solomons
'keeper had lost all confidence by this stage.
Thompson did get on the scoresheet in the 68th minute and it was a goal
worthy of any occasion. He controlled the ball beautifully inside the
penalty box and shot brilliantly from a tight angle.
Both Bresciano and Thompson could have added to the score before yet another
mistake by Aruwafu allowed a speculative Brett Emerton shot to make it 7-0
to Australia. It had been raining steadily throughout the match and the
slippery ball would have caused problems for the hapless goalkeeper, but
that really shouldn't be an excuse for three horrible errors.
The press conferences were a lot of fun. Remember, I only moonlight as a
journalist so it was a real buzz to sit a couple of metres away from Mark
Viduka and Guus Hiddink.
Hiddink said that he wants to see a few different players in the return leg.
(Certainly the size of Australia's victory will allow him that luxury.) He
also talked a bit about the 3-5-2 formation saying that it's easy to change
without having to make a substitution.
Viduka said that the players had talked about the difficult conditions in
Honiara so they knew it was important to do well (in the home leg).
Airton Andrioli faced the media with Henry Fa'arodo. He said he was happy
with the first 20 minutes and confirmed that Batram Suri was carrying a
knock from one of the warm up matches the Solomons had had in New Zealand. I
asked Andrioli if he thought he might have been better off starting Stanley
Waita or Jack Samani at right midfield and bringing Fa'arodo into a central
role. I don't think he really appreciated the question and reiterated that
he thought things had gone well in the opening 20 minutes but some players
did not do what they were supposed to do whether through lack of fitness or
lack of confidence.
I know it's a tough job - trying to prepare a Solomons team to face
Australia - but I do think Andrioli made a couple of questionable decisions.
Alas, I won't be in Honiara for the return leg. It would have been a great
experience but the logistics of the exercise are not favourable. The game
itself will probably be a formality and while I wouldn't want to see any
hiccups from the Socceroos, I do hope the Solomons can do better in front of
their home crowd.
It'll then be goodbye to the Oceania Confederation as far as Australia is
concerned but it would be remiss of us to forget our OFC colleagues. Despite
this result, they have developed in the last two decades and hopefully they
will continue to improve. It would be prudent to retain a relationship with
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