Opinion: Off-pitch Socceroos need youth to find range

Dejan Kalinic believes much must improve if the Socceroos are to comfortably qualify for the East Asian Cup as expected, and says youth and creativity are the keys
GOAL.com Indonesia   OPINION

Several factors conspired against the Socceroos as their bid to reach the 2013 East Asian Cup got underway, but the level of performance in the 1-0 win over Hong Kong was appalling.

Holger Osieck's men escaped with three points in their opening qualifier thanks to an 85th-minute Brett Emerton strike.

A gap of 139 places in the Fifa rankings was rarely - if ever - evident as Australia scraped to a win they had to secure.

In fairness, the Mong Kok Stadium pitch, if it can be called that, did the Socceroos no favours as they faced a well-organised Hong Kong side in humid conditions.

But unlike the 2014 World Cup qualifier against Iraq in October, when missed chances almost proved costly, it was a lack of ideas on Monday that hinderered Australia against Hong Kong.

Emerton found the winner, but also had his share of frustrations against Hong Kong.

That was hardly a surprise after Osieck named seven players in his starting XI who can - or have - played in defence.

If the German is planning to hold the likes of Tom Rogic, who came on for the final 10 minutes, Aaron Mooy and Eli Babalj for Wednesday's meeting with North Korea, he got away with one.

Failing to beat Hong Kong would have made qualifying for the finals in South Korea very difficult.

Failing with a starting XI possessing an average age of 28.8 would have been unacceptable.

But other than Archie Thompson poking wide from yards in the first half, the Socceroos looked short of ideas in the opening 45.

On many an occasion, there were hopeful, predictable crosses floated in from bad areas on a worse surface.

The rushed, easy option is one even first-choice Socceroos often resort to, but the likes of Robbie Kruse and Tommy Oar look likely to change that.

While the back four of Ivan Franjic, Matt Smith, Robert Cornthwaite and Aziz Behich looked largely untroubled, Hong Kong posed a threat on the counter-attack.

The hosts tested goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic from range when they had the chance.

It was time for Osieck to do without a defensive midfield pairing of Mark Milligan and Michael Thwaite, who were unable to provide any serious attacking threat.

A dangerous two-footed challenge by Chan Siu Ki on Emerton in the 52nd minute angered the Sydney FC attacker, and brought him to life.

The 33-year-old captain tried too hard and his below-par performance was similar to what he has managed in the A-League this season.

Emerton provided Thompson with a rare clear-cut chance when he played him behind after a sloppy Hong Kong turnover, but the solid Yapp Hung Fai got down low to save.

The introduction of Rogic in the 81st minute provided Australia with the creativity they had so sorely been missing.

Rogic almost scored with one of his first touches and looked more likely than anyone had throughout 90 minutes to make something happen.

The 19-year-old, Mooy, Babalj and perhaps even Mat Ryan deserve to start against North Korea.

Expose the youngsters, playing without fear, to international football and give them the licence to create and attack.

Goal Australia has its own and account, so for all the latest news and features on Australian football follow us by clicking on the above links