On the final day of the OFC confederation qualification group stage, it is Australia and Israel who come head to head. Following last week’s 2-2 draw in New Zealand, these two are now the only teams who can possibly win the group, and go on and face a CONMEBOL section team in the intercontinental play-offs in October. Israel have the advantage of being able to achieve group victory through a draw only, whereas Australia need to win in order to surpass today’s opponents in the final standings.
When the pair had met in Tel Aviv, the game had finished one-all. Both had shown during their performances that they had a fine peak level, whereas the Australians had probably also shown greater leniency than today’s opponents in that their worst level of performance was near the opposite end of the scale.
Following their intercontinental play-off heartbreak in the previous World Cup qualification, Australia are just another game, and indeed a win, away from reaching that same stage once again. Before them, though, is an opponent which provided a stern test in Tel Aviv four weeks earlier, and despite home advantage, the Australians can for sure not treat their Israeli adversaries lightly today.
The 2-0 reverse in Auckland two weeks ago was a major set-back to the Socceroos. They had battered the Kiwis in the home tie previous to that, but faced a different proposition in New Zealand. Combined with Israel’s draw in Auckland last week, the onus was now on the Australians to deliver.
Since we’ve rarely had available to us the respective full matchday squads of 16 players during the OFC section of the World Cup qualification, we can’t say for sure which players, if any (in addition to the regular starters), have been mainstays in Frank Arok’s selection throughout the competition. Indeed, some have been features in each of the three (or five, if you include the two preliminary stage ties against Fiji) qualifiers to date.
While they had missed out on the trip to New Zealand, Europe based strikers Eddie Krnčević (at Belgian giants Anderlecht) and Frank Farina (Club Brugge) were both back for this group decider. In addition, yet another forward based on European soil, in the shape of Chelsea’s David Mitchell, had made a welcome return to the national team. It was the first time since those Scotland play-off matches, in November and December 1985, that he had featured in a national team squad. Mitchell, 26, had just helped Chelsea return to the English topflight after a one year absence.
Another player Arok could welcome back was defender Wally Šavor. He had been suspended for the trip to New Zealand following his sending-off a couple of minutes from time in Israel. Šavor appeared to be a favourite with the Australia manager, and following the loss two weeks ago, it would hardly be a surprise if he made it straight back into the starting eleven.
The question was who was going to lead the Australian line now with those three European legionnaires back, as Sydney Croatia’s Graham Arnold had been Arok’s pick in their absence. Was the manager going to reward Arnold for his perseverance, or would he stick all three of Krnčević, Farina and Mitchell in? Would we even be seeing all four accommodated simultaneously?
Australia had appeared in 3-4-3 throughout the qualification group stage. Would the manager stick to the same formation again, or would he deviate from the familiar and trusted in his desperate chase for that elusive top berth?
With a win and two draws, the Israelis had been consistent enough so far in the qualification to find themselves atop the table. However, they knew very well just how tough it would be to get a result in front of a packed house in Sydney, so they did obviously not take anything for granted. Could they go on and qualify for the global stage for the first time since Mexico ’70?
While we did know the identity of the three unused Israeli substitutes in their 2-2 draw in Auckland, the same had not been the case for their first two matches. Again, obtaining information about all 16 members of the matchday squad has proved troublesome, but with the squad having been gathered on this continent since just prior to the New Zealand v Australia game, it was not unlikely that the same 16 players as last time around had been summoned on again.
The two Israeli supremos, Itzhak Schneor and Ya’acov Grundman, had so far, in the two previous matches which we have been able to obtain knowledge from, shown us two different formations: 5-3-2 at home to Australia, and 5-4-1 in New Zealand. With so much at stake for today’s game, it seemed highly unlikely that they would abandon their five man defensive line. It remained to be seen who would feature up front: Ronny Rosenthal again as a lone striker, or would they trust Eli Ohana to be fit enough to last the full 90 minutes following his recently aggravated thigh injury? He had certainly made a difference when he had entered the pitch in Auckland.
45 year old Italian referee Carlo Longhi had been brought in to take care of this vital clash. He had a pair of French linesmen in Claude Bouillet and Michel Girard accompanying him, and all three had appeared in New Zealand the previous Sunday. Bouillet had been the main official then.
Longhi was an experienced referee at domestic level, where he had featured in the highest division since the tail end of the 1976/77 season. His final match prior to leaving for the two Oceania confederation qualifiers had been been Internazionale’s 4-0 home win against Como on 2 April.
He had refereed a total of seven internationals previously, where five had been friendlies and two had been qualifiers for the 1988 European Championships.
This was the third time that Israel had featured in the OFC confederation World Cup qualification. It had occured also ahead of the pair of tournaments in Mexico: 1970 and 1986. Consequently, this was the third time the two countries had locked horns in qualification. Israel, who had ultimately progressed through to the 1970 tournament, their solitary World Cup participation hitherto, had won 1-0 at home and drawn 1-1 in Australia in 1969. In 1985, Australia had won 2-1 away, and then drawn 1-1 at home. After the 1-1 draw in Tel Aviv last month, their qualification record read 1-3-1 from five encounters.
4-7-3 was the total record in Australia’s favour prior to this clash. In the 70s and through to Dec ’80, they had met no less than nine times in international friendlies.
Opened in 1988, the Sydney Football Stadium, with its futuristic design, was art noveau, and an assumed hub for the Socceroos for years to come. The capacity was in the 40,000 region, though in the only World Cup qualifier previously held here, the 4-1 win against New Zealand the previous month, only just in excess of 13,000 had paid their way inside.
The stadium, situated in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs area, was home for the Sydney Roosters rugby league club since its opening. It was also a frequently used concert arena. She was ultimately demolished in 2019, and a new stadium is being built on the site, with the prospect of being completed some time in 2022.
|1 Jeff Olver||28||Melbourne Croatia|
|2 Wally Šavor||29||Sydney Croatia|
|3 Alan Davidson||28||Melbourne Croatia|
|4 Charlie Yankos (c)||27||PAOK Thessaloniki|
|5 Gary van Egmond||23||Footscray JUST|
|6 Paul Wade||sub h-t||27||South Melbourne|
|7 Frank Farina||sub 67′||24||Club Brugge|
|8 Dave Mitchell||26||Chelsea|
|9 Graham Arnold||25||Sydney Croatia|
|10 Oscar Crino||26||Footscray JUST|
|11 Eddie Krnčević||44′||28||Anderlecht|
|x Mike Gibson||26||St George|
|13 Mike Petersen||on h-t||23||South Melbourne|
|x Andy Koczka||23||St George|
|15 Paul Trimboli||on 67′||20||South Melbourne|
|x Scott Ollerenshaw||21||St George|
|1 Bonni Ginzburg||24||Beitar Jerusalem|
|2 Avi Cohen II||26||Beitar Jerusalem|
|3 Yehuda Amar||57′||25||Hapoel Jerusalem|
|4 Nir Klinger||22||Maccabi Haifa|
|5 Yaron Parselani||29′||30||Beitar Tel Aviv|
|6 Nir Alon||25||Hapoel Petah Tikva|
|7 Moshe Sinai (c)||28||Hapoel Tel Aviv|
|8 Efraim Davidi||29||Hapoel Be’er Sheva|
|9 Shalom Tikva||sub 89′||23||Standard Liège|
|10 Eli Ohana||25||Mechelen|
|11 Ronny Rosenthal||25||Standard Liège|
|14 Eitan Aharoni||on 89′||26||Maccabi Haifa|
|15 Nir Levin||27||Hapoel Petah Tikva|
With the attendance from their New Zealand home fixture multiplied by three, the Sydney Football Stadium was clad with optimism, emotion and a cauldron of sound. For the newly built stadium, this was the first time that it had sold out for a football game, and it helped build a pre-game atmosphere of some proportions. A small group of Israel supporters apart, they had all arrived in order to try and lift their Socceroos to a win against a solid visiting team.
As the two teams’ line-ups were presented on the screen in the run-up to the kick-off, we do notice what an attacking selection it is from Australia manager Frank Arok. For the first time in the qualification, he had available to him all three of the country’s leading Europe exports in Frank Farina, David Mitchell and Eddie Krnčević. The latter had displayed a particularly menacing ability in front of the opposition’s goal throughout the season, and was expected to resume his battle against Israel’s giant stopper Nir Alon. They’d had a thorough duel the previous month in Tel Aviv. In addition, leading domestic striker, Graham Arnold, also featured. A midfield role for him?
The visitors’ managers Schneor and Grundman had also surprised those in attendance: There was no Shlomo Iluz and no David Pizanti. It suggested that they would switch back to a four man defensive line, unless they’d pull one of their midfielders back into the heart of the defence. Up against such an arsenal of Australian attackers, this certainly baffled those enlightened enough to realize. Did it seem a little dare-devilish by the Israeli supremos?
The visitors were proceeding with the kick-off through their striker Eli Ohana and their midfield man and captain Moshe Sinai, the man with the gifted left foot. Off we go!
What could be expected in the early passages of play, was a high level of intensity from the home side. They’d want to let their visitors realize that they were in for a difficult afternoon, and to gain the upper hand right away would feel crucial to their chances of achieving that win. And true to such ideas, the Socceroos went about their business. They were looking for their forwards as quickly as they could, wishing to heap pressure on the Israeli defence right from the off, and the European based trio of Dave Mitchell, Eddie Krnčević and Frank Farina were all busy making off the ball runs from the very first moment. And once possession was lost, the Australian forwards made sure to run their socks off in attempts at regaining it immediately. This was everything which you would’ve expected beforehand.
The Israelis, though, were no soft collection of players, neither physically nor mentally. They had shown so far in the qualification that they could dish out just as much as they were earning, and those battles between the Australian forwards and the visiting defence were appearing almost right from the start. It was indeed so that Israel had reverted to a four man defensive line, but coming up against three Australian forwards, it would seem that each defender, spare man Yaron Parselani apart, was working according to man-marking principles. Thus you’d see right-back Avi Cohen II follow Australia’s Farina, initially the left-sided attacker, across into what was essentially Israeli left-back territory, where Cohen would clip Farina’s heels on eight minutes. Farina had four minutes earlier let left-back Yehuda Amar know he’s there by kicking him off the pitch.
As early as the third minute, though, the visitors had reminded Australia that they had more in their locker than just sitting back and soaking up pressure. They had shown so many times already during that 2-2 draw in Auckland the previous Sunday how they could break with pace, although on that occasion precision inside the final third of the pitch had failed them. A ball lofted forward by captain Moshe Sinai saw blistering quick striker Ronny Rosenthal turn his defender Wally Šavor even inside the visitors’ half of the pitch, before he sped down that left hand channel, making it into the area, where he’d faced home skipper Charlie Yankos, before running out of space and putting his rushed cross behind the goalline. There was certainly potential in the Israelis’ counter-attacking, and Australia would need to pay attention whenever such an occasion arose. This time around, from the very start, Rosenthal even had Eli Ohana alongside him for assistance. The pair were capable of causing such havoc with their combined pace.
The pattern of the game is pretty clear, with Israel defending deep and Australia pushing their men forward. What is noticeable, is that the well-monitored Krnčević at times opts to come very deep in order to receive the ball, something which makes him escape the shackles otherwise provided by Alon’s presence. He attempts to turn and look forward for either of his two front colleagues Mitchell or Farina, or indeed either of the two central midfielders. This has yet to prove very efficient when arriving around the quarter of an hour mark, but at least it gives the Anderlecht ace the sense of being part of the game, rather than just being kicked to shreds or challenged in the air by the nearly undefeatable centre-back whose mission it is to deal with Krnčević. Alon had even dived to connect with a Mitchell cross from the left on ten minutes, spectacularly clearing the ball away for a left wing corner.
The Israelis are well aware that their main task and priority remain to be defending, and with these man-marking tactics, they are succeeding quite well thus far. They’re aware that there will be plenty of aerial tussles with the style of approach which the Australians have chosen, but this appears to suit them, and they’re not duly worried. The returned Mitchell has so far not gelled very well with the rest of the team, while Graham Arnold seems to struggle somewhat to understand his position, where the idea could well be that he needs to provide runs into the area from midfield. Arnold, who himself is a decent header of the ball, did have one such moment on 11 minutes, where he was defeated eight yards out by Shalom Tikva, of all people, from Krnčević’ cross from the right.
A misunderstanding around the halfway line along Australia’s right hand side between midfielder Paul Wade and defender Wally Šavor nearly cost them a goal on 16 minutes, as Sinai took over and sent Rosenthal away down that left-handed channel once again. Having spotted Ohana in the centre, the Standard Liège striker swung the ball in his direction, and while Ohana could not quite connect cleanly from close range, his effort spun off defender Gary van Egmond and almost got the better of goalkeeper Jeff Olver, who impressively managed to shift his weight back on to his right foot in time to make a dive, and divert the ball away for a left wing Israel corner.
Strong penalty claim
Israel could consider themselves desperately unlucky not to have won a penalty on 18 minutes. Australia had failed to maintain possession after a right wing corner, and Crino it was who played it into Rosenthal’s feet just outside the Israeli penalty area. A quick one-two with his captain Sinai deep inside their own half set the speedy striker on his way towards goal, and having sprinted a full 60 yards, Rosenthal just got a touch to the ball to divert it past the onrushing Olver to the right inside the Australian penalty area. Replays showed how the pacy striker just got to the ball before he was mowed to the ground by the ‘keeper, while the referee only gave a right wing corner. It was a dreadful decision, and though some visiting players protested, with referee Longhi even seen pushing Tikva away, they remained impressively composed. It would’ve been a massive decision to award the penalty, but it would’ve been a correct one. From Sinai’s corner, incidentally, Olver must push the ball over the bar, as it threatens to sneak in at the back post.
Israel: A closer look
While the home side had had the majority of the possession in the opening 20 minutes, Israel had looked threatening on their counters, and they had indeed come the closest to scoring so far. By this point there is little doubt as to what formations the two teams have implemented, and to the players’ whereabouts. Let’s have a look through the two teams, starting with the visitors.
Israel had most likely been in 4-3-3 for their opener at home to New Zealand, then switched to 5-3-2 for the visit of Australia in Tel Aviv, before adding another midfielder to the fold in their 5-4-1 starting formation last Sunday in Auckland. On this occasion, they were definitely in 4-4-2, so in case we’ve guessed their outlook from their opening tie correctly, this was their fourth numbers combination in four matches.
In goal was once again 24 year old Bonni Ginzburg, who had not been called upon much so far, despite the opposition having the bulk of the possession. He had at times displayed some odd decision-making, particularly when coming for aerial balls with plenty of traffic ahead, but other than that, he was strong on the line, and he was a truly confident ‘keeper, with plenty of faith in his own ability. As one among two Beitar Jerusalem players in the starting eleven, Ginzburg seemed to be one of the first names on the managers’ note pad.
At the back, the visitors had Yaron Parselani as their spare man behind the remaining three defenders. The 30 year old of Beitar Tel Aviv did have a bit of a story with Australia, as he’d been exposed to a step on the head by Gary McDowall in an Olympic Games qualifier the previous year. That said, Parselani was hardly an angel at all times himself. According to SBS commentator Les Warren, he was ‘a real nasty piece of work’, a reference to Parselani himself having caused McDowall to react like he did, with repeated offences. This was the physically imposing defender’s second appearance of the qualification, after he’d come on last week in New Zealand.
Israel’s right-back was Avi Cohen II, not to be confused with the former Liverpool centre-back by the same name, a 26 year old of Beitar Jerusalem, and so a team mate of Ginzburg’s at club level. While adapt in coming forward, Cohen was quite strong in the challenge, and would primarily be looking to keep Frank Farina’s movements monitored. With the latter not entirely pinned down to a left-sided position, Cohen would at times need to work both towards the centre and even across towards the left hand side.
While David Pizanti had started all of their three previous qualifiers, the London based left-back had not impressed last weekend in Auckland. He had been replaced during the second half then, something which had seen Yehuda Amar, another accomplished defender, switch from his libero role and into Pizanti’s left-back slot. Amar was right-footed, and so didn’t provide the same kind of attacking threat down that left hand side, but the main objective here was obviously to defend. Amar did this well, and he’d be keeping an eye on David Mitchell.
Ahead of libero Parselani in the centre, was Nir Alon. The 25 year old of Hapoel Petah Tikva had more than matched Eddie Krnčević in the opposite fixture last month, and much due to his size, he was someone who would win headers all day. He did allow the Australian striker some space whenever Krnčević chose to come deep for the ball, but inside his own box Alon was nearly unbeatable. He was well-positioned, too, and would mop up with his impressive reach and telescopig legs. Alon was an instrumental cog in Israel’s defensive frame.
In the middle of the park, Israel’s two holding midfielders remained identical to last week. In fact, their entire midfield quartet had been given starting berths once again, although there were some individual tactical tweaks instruction-wise. Towards the rear of midfield, Nir Klinger and Efraim Davidi once again made up a pair. While Klinger, 22 years of age and from Maccabi Haifa, the team’s youngest member, patrolled central right areas, he had the experienced Hapoel Be’er Sheva man Davidi, 29, to his left. Klinger also appeared to have slightly more attacking freedom than his deep-lying partner, and would be seen popping up in the right-sided attacking channel on at least a couple of occasions during the opening half. Davidi seemed a reliable customer, and would be tracking the Australian midfielders, Arnold and Crino in particular, whenever they chose to venture forward.
Ahead of Klinger, the elegant Shalom Tikva was operating as a slightly advanced, right-sided player. However, in contrast to last week in Auckland, further defensive responsibility appeared to have been brought onto the 23 year old’s shoulders this time around. As one of three visiting players based in Belgium, this was the first time during the qualification that all three had started. He was delicate in his close control, he knew how to execute a pass, and he did certainly appear to have a fine understanding with his team mate from club football, Ronny Rosenthal, ahead of him. He’d also challenged so well in the air inside his own box when Arnold had threatened earlier. To his immediate left, but in a somewhat more central role, Tikva had Moshe Sinai. The latter had captained the team throughout the qualification, and was a hugely vital member of the team. He often directed the counters, and he was their number one set-piece taker inside the opposition’s half. Sinai’s left foot knew how to deliver. He did perhaps not go through an awful lot of work defensively, but in those transitions, Schneor and Grundman could just not ignore their captain as an asset.
Up top were the two Belgium based strikers who had already earned themselves a fine reputation in Europe. While Eli Ohana, who was working as their right-sided striker, had only joined the Israeli travelling party late ahead of the New Zealand fixture, and also not entirely fit. He’d picked up a groin injury during a midweek Cup Winners’ Cup game with his Mechelen side, but apparently he’d been deemed fit enough to start on this occasion, having done well as a substitute last time around. His close control was sublime, and while he did not quite have his partner’s exquisite pace, he was still a contributing factor in Israeli counter-attacks. As for Ronny Rosenthal, he’d already proved his worth, and he’d predominantly be working the left handed channels. The two strikers would come up against Gary van Egmond and Wally Šavor respectively.
In focus: Australia
With the first half 25 minutes old, Australia are still knocking on the Israelis’ door, but they’re not entering; there’s no way inside. The hosts do still look to be in the ascendancy, but they’ve been hit on the counter enough by now to realize what a potential threat there is from the visitors.
There is little in terms of variation in the Australians’ attacking play. They do focus a whole lot on hitting high balls into the area, and the idea is clearly that Krnčević should win headers for team mates to benefit from. The only problem is: he isn’t. The robust Belgium based striker is having a difficult time against Alon once again, and in addition, you are left with a sense that this Socceroos edition has not had sufficient time on the training pitch to work on plans B and C. Had Arok rushed his trio of European based forwards into the side at too great a risk? Players like Warren Spink and Scott Ollerenshaw had featured in the matches where Farina and Krnčević had not, and they were more likely adapt to the team’s attacking shape than some of these were.
Between the posts, Jeff Olver is once again the obvious pick, like he’s been throughout the qualification. He’s one of five Australians who has started all six of their matches. The 28 year old of Melbourne Croatia has proved himself to be a very reliable customer, although he, like his counterpart down the other end of the pitch, had also revealed some aerial misjudgement earlier in the qualification, most notably when he’d conceded at home to New Zealand.
In their 3-4-3 formation, Charlie Yankos remained their commanding presence at the heart of the defence, operating behind the two man-markers as a libero. While he was hardly the quickest player on two feet, the Greece based central defender knew how to position himself, and he would time and again look for either a striker or indeed right-sided midfielder Paul Wade with his long hoists up from the back. Like two weeks ago in Auckland, though, precision, which he’d displayed to good effect earlier, seemed to have left him. Some of his long range passes ran out of play.
The oldest member of the Socceroos’ starting eleven was 29 year old Wally Šavor, who was starting in the qualification group stage for the third time. It most likely would’ve been four, had it not been for the red card he’d been issued late during the 1-1 draw away in Israel, when he’d fouled Rosenthal cynically to earn his second booking. He’d subsequently been suspended for the trip to New Zealand, but was restored here at Steve Calderan’s expense. Šavor typically worked to Yankos’ advanced right, and was doing his best in sticking close to Rosenthal. He couldn’t match the Israeli for pace, though. He’d need to be wise in his positioning.
Across from Šavor was Gary van Egmond, who, at 23, was the team’s youngest member. While he’d played the full 90 in both preliminary round matches against Fiji, this was his first appearance in the qualification group stage. His primary task was to try and prevent Ohana from dominating along Israel’s right hand side, and equipped with decent pace, van Egmond would rarely be outrun. He did perhaps rush into the odd situation, and would surely benefit from the experience of playing against such a skillful opponent.
The four members of the Australian midfield were on this occasion, right to left: Paul Wade, Oscar Crino, Graham Arnold and Alan Davidson. They were all four regular starters as we’ve come to know the Socceroos team during this qualification, although Arnold was thrust into a midfield capacity for the first time, having previously played up front, where he belonged. Wade to the right was strong in the air; he had a great jump on him. He’d be another one whom they’d look for when there was a set-piece to lift into the area. He would also pull inside from his right-handed position, to bolster central areas when Australia were in possession. So far, though, he’d hardly been effective.
The pair in the centre were Crino and Arnold, with the former usually playing in a more advanced role than today. With no Micky Petersen behind him, the Argentina born playmaker needed to accept added defensive responsibility, although with the Australians so much in possession, he rarely had to display his defensive ability. Crino often stroked the ball right and left, and was usually looking for team mates in a more advanced position. He was also well-built physically, and was not an easy player to brush off the ball. As for Arnold, it took him a while to adapt to this new role, and so far he had often been running inbetween, rarely seeing possession, and looked like he’d struggled in his positioning.
Along the left hand side, Davidson was another ever-present, and the strong-running wide man would never stop giving chase. He had such bundles of energy, and operated as a two-way alternative down his flank, as important inside the opposition’s half as he was vital defensively. He’d just nutmegged Tikva along his left hand side, something which was massively appreciated by the crowd. Davidson was always a fully committed player, and there’s no doubt he was yet another player whom manager Arok jotted down on his note pad early.
We’ve mentioned the front three already, so just to recapture: 28 year old Eddie Krnčević was working through the centre, with Frank Farina and David Mitchell left and right respectively. While the former’s position didn’t alter much, Farina and Mitchell would frequently swap sides. It could be seen as an attempt to make their attacking play less predictable, although so far it had not been highly efficient. Farina had trickery and pace, while Mitchell was another big, physically strong player. The latter had shown initiative, but yet failed to ignite. The same could be said for Farina, while Krnčević was being dominated by Alon.
Arnold coming to life?
The game had gone a bit scrappy in the last few minutes, but suddenly there’s a fine move from the home side constructed by the ingenuity of Crino. He’d received the ball from a left hand side Davidson throw inside his own half, and looked up and spotted Krnčević halfway inside the opposition’s half. With his back to goal, the striker flicked the ball on, something which deceived his marker, and Arnold, who had been quite anonymous hitherto, ran on to it. As he wanted to take it beyond Parselani, the Israeli libero cynically brought the attacking Australian midfielder down, something which brought the defender a deserved yellow card. Yankos hit the resulting free-kick, 22 yards out, via the defensive wall and away for a right wing corner.
Was Arnold beginning to find his groove? A couple of minutes on from his previous involvement, in 31 minutes, he makes a run into the left hand channel from van Egmond’s fine pass forward, and is barged into from behind by Klinger, who had tracked him. It was another quite brutal challenge, although the referee kept his card in his chest pocket this time around. From the resulting free-kick, Ginzburg looked again to have made a bit of a mistake in coming off his line, as both Krnčević and Mitchell went up for Crino’s ball into the area. Neither striker managed to connect cleanly, though, and a relieved Ginzburg could gather on the second attempt.
Israel had been denied a penalty earlier in the half, and 37 minutes into the game, it was the home side who felt they should have had an opportunity to strike from 12 yards. Yankos accelerates into the opposition’s half for the first time, having played a one-two with Crino in the centre of the pitch. Upon receiving the ball back, he lifts it towards the left hand channel, where Farina is seen with a bit of space. The forward bursts into the area and is closed down by Cohen. As Farina is about to dart towards the byline, it would appear as if the full-back clipped him, though the referee probably makes just about the correct decision when he awards the left wing corner instead. While it had looked blatant initially, the final replay revealed that Farina went down after he was past Cohen, who had put a risky tackle in, but seemingly missed out on his opponent. The referee had not bought into Farina’s teatrical dive.
My, oh, my. 40 minutes gone, and we have a breakthrough in Sydney. While Israel had not been able to recreate any of their earlier stingy counter-attacks following that Rosenthal non-penalty incident, they are gifted the opening goal by the hosts out of the blue. As Alon is allowed to unchallengedly head the ball forward from the halfway line, van Egmond and Yankos appear to be in control, although the former seems to think that his captain has made a claim for the ball and vice versa, and as Yankos fails to get his toe to it and poke it back to his ‘keeper, the alert Ohana nips in between and seizes on the loose ball to round Olver and then also the recovering van Egmond, before he coolly slots it into the back of the empty net. It is a huge goal for the Israelis just before the half-time break, and one which may well come back to haunt the Australians.
Less than three minutes after Ohana’s goal, the ball is in the back of the net down the other end, although it was quickly, and correctly, ruled out for a foul on goalkeeper Ginzburg. A free-kick from the halfway line by Yankos was lifted into the area, and as Ginzburg, true to his character, was coming out to fetch it, despite some traffic ahead of him, he was run into by Krnčević, who had also had an altercation with him only seconds earlier. The striker fouled Ginzburg, and while the loose ball broke for Mitchell to strike low into the back of the net, there was never any chance of it being a telling goal. Krnčević took some time to get up, and when he did, he was even given the yellow card for his foul. Perhaps a tad harsh.
The opening half carries on until 48,32, when the referee finally signals an end to the proceedings. There had been yet another foul by Alon on Krnčević inside the centre-circle, something which had enraged the home players, who certainly felt that the big defender had done enough to earn a booking by now. Shortly after, the striker is seeing another decision in his disfavour after Šavor’s long throw from near the right wing corner flag. So far, it has not been the ace marksman’s afternoon.
As the whistle goes, a chorus of jeers is heard from the audience, which does not indicate that they’re all in accordance with his decisions so far. Israel, though, won’t care; they have a precious half-time lead. Australia will now need to find two second half goals with no further score from the visitors in order to win the group.
With no half-time footage or information available, we dive straight into the action. Even the restart itself had been cut from the tape, although there is enough fotographic evidence to suggest that kick-off is performed by Mitchell and Krnčević.
There has indeed been a substitution made during the break, and Australia probably won’t mind losing some aerial power, as manager Arok had opted to leave Paul Wade behind, replacing him with Mike Petersen in the centre of the park. Wade had been able to get on the end of a couple of free-kicks played into the area, but neither of his headers had worried the visiting ‘keeper. Was this substitution an indication of a change in tactics from the home side, or would Petersen simply take over Wade’s role as the right-sided midfielder, with license to come in field when the Socceroos were in possession?
Who is to say that Australia had not decided to found at least part of their tactics on Bonni Ginzburg’s tendency to come off his line for just about every cross which is being put within eight yards from his goalline? While the aerial bombardment had so far not come off, thanks to sturdy defending by the visitors’ rear guard, there is another cross put in from the wide area, this time via the right hand side, where Farina had appeared almost immediately upon the kick-off. As had been the case during the first half, his aim had been to reach Krnčević. The striker actually got to the ball before the ‘keeper, but Krnčević couldn’t get enough on it to direct it goalwards, and it just flicked off his head and went loose for Ginzburg to get to at the second time of asking.
Early second half impressions
While the Australians would love an early second half goal, they would at least need to show that they had it in them to produce opportunities against this Israeli side, in order to restore some portions of the faith which those in attendance were perhaps beginning to lose. So far, what they had mustered was plenty of possession, but precious little in terms of goal threat. Did they have more in their locker than aerial balls and efforts from distance?
Arok had swapped sides for Mitchell and Farina, as the latter was now seemingly a more permanent feature along the right. After that early Krnčević involvement, there is more life around the two wide forwards, with Farina keen on taking a man or two on, and Mitchell eager to take the ball inside, like he had done on 48 minutes, when he’d arrived at a shooting position 25 yards out, only to see the ball drift half a yard over while Cohen had tracked him and applied pressure.
Israel are more than content with the current scoreline, and have few attacking incentives at all. They do arrive along the right through a forward burst by Klinger, though, with his cross not a particularly successful one, and another venture inside the Australian half sees Rosenthal try to wrestle his way forward, again from his somewhat left-sided position. Another goal by the visitors would completely ruin most people’s day out, still apart from that hardy group of away support amidst the sea of amber and green.
Mike Petersen’s arrival does indeed appear to have been a straight swap for Wade. He had been seen in the centre previously in the qualification, though Wade’s role had also included involvement through the centre in Australia’s build-up phase. This was now continued through the combative Petersen, who didn’t quite have Wade’s strength above the ground. A keen battler, though, he would surely try and motivate his team mates into further action following the massive disappointment of conceding late in the first half.
Israel captain Moshe Sinai had not been highly productive so far this afternoon, though on 56 minutes, he’s twice right in the thick of the action, although not with a great level of potency. He’s in possession towards the left, near the home side’s penalty area, though a misunderstanding sees his attempt at playing Rosenthal in fail, as the ball rolls through to Olver. Next, he capitalizes from a careless Crino touch as the Australian midfielder is about to make it across the halfway line, only to be stopped by a strong Davidi tackle. As the ball breaks loose to Ohana, the forward plays his skipper in to his right. Sinai continues into the area, and he manages to outwit Yankos, only to set himself up for a shooting chance on his much weaker right foot. The effort is a low, diagonal one, and drifts several yards wide of Olver’s upright. Tikva had arrived just too late as support.
Hitherto over the two ties against Israel, Krnčević had struggled to make much of an impact. He was being closely surveilled by the Israeli defence, and by Alon in particular. Full credit must go to the tall visiting defender, who really was both fully focused and committed. Alon did perhaps not always use entirely legal means to prevent the striker to close in on goal, though so far he’d not been reprimanded by the referee. With Krnčević having retracted somewhat closer to midfield in order to participate in a build-up, he’s been tracked by left-back Amar, and on 57 minutes, the curly-haired defender saw yellow for tripping the Belgium based forward as the latter was about to spin past him. While the tackle itself hadn’t necessarily looked any worse than other tackles which Krnčević had been exposed to, the booking could well have been a result of repeat offences against him.
Lack of cohesion and width
As the clock is approaching 63 minutes, there’s yet been little in terms of action right in front of Ginzburg to suggest that the home side are any more capable of creating openings than they were during the first half. That collective approach keeps eluding them, and the lack of practice together remains a worry for the management, as the front three have previously not played with the current midfield. There is also not much wide play from the hosts, something which could’ve contributed to stretching the Israeli defence, and over two and a half hours of putting aerial balls into the centre has demonstrated that Alon is the king of the duels. Micky Petersen is next to have a pop when he chests down a poor clearance from Amar, only to see his low, right-footed effort from 22-23 yards sneak half a yard to the left of the post, which the ‘keeper had covered anyway.
Charlie Yankos had got himself on the scoresheet four times already since the start of the qualification, and he was Australia’s primary set-piece taker. Two of his goals had come from the penalty spot, and the other two from deadball situations outside the area. After Arnold had been impeded by Parselani just outside the box on 65 minutes, there’s another chance for the home libero to have a pop at goal, though as Crino rolls the ball for him to have a go with his fearsome right foot, the captain can’t get his low effort on target. It drifts a yard wide of Ginzburg’s right hand post, and again the goalkeeper has it covered. As the second half reaches its halfway stage, the men clad in amber and green must find inspiration from somewhere quickly, or they’ll be facing the agony of a home loss and qualification exit.
In trying to find that strike of luck from somewhere, the Australian management team decide to withdraw Frank Farina. It is a decision which stuns the majority of the crowd, as he’s clearly one of the fans’ darlings. However, the Club Brugge forward had not really got into his stride on this occasion, and the substitution could well be justified. While he’d been seen wide left for most of the first half, Farina had switched across to the right for the second period. He’d swung a couple of crosses in, but generally not been involved as much as the hosts would’ve hoped. He was replaced by young attacking midfield man Paul Trimboli, who was making his first appearance since coming on as a substitute in the home qualifier against Fiji and scoring the Socceroos’ fifth goal.
With Farina having exited and Trimboli come on, there had been a few tweaks to the Australian order of appearance. While it had looked as if Arnold had gradually moved higher in the pitch, operating along the right handed channel, leaving Petersen and Crino to take care of central midfield, the recently arrived 20 year old substitute looked to have come on in an attacking midfield capacity, moving Arnold further out towards right handed territory. Trimboli clearly had license to drift from right to left, as the hosts were still hoping to disrhythm the Israeli defensive line. Mitchell had at times looked lively after the break, and from his position towards the left in attack, the striker had picked up the ball just inside the area, working himself into a shooting position on his favoured right foot, only to hit it straight at Ginzburg from 18 yards.
Visitors look secure
The Israelis’ focus remained a defensive one, and perhaps even they were somewhat surprised at the ease with which they were repelling the hosts. There had even been various opportunities for the visitors to go on the counter, though despite the pace they possessed up top, it had not quite come off for them, as players were generally electing individual solutions rather than collective ones. Earlier in the half, Olver had been brave when he’d dived down at Ohana’s feet to collect Sinai’s attempted through ball, and the steady Australian ‘keeper had also claimed Tikva’s lofted ball towards Ohana at the second attempt, in addition to seeing a 75 minute Sinai free-kick towards the back of the area drift out of play. There was not much time left now for the visitors to see the game out. They were looking comfortable.
With the clock ticking away and Frank Arok down on the Australian bench looking increasingly despondent, it is very difficult to see how the hosts can restore advantage and move further on in the qualification. They’ve not yet had any effort on target which has had Ginzburg truly tested, and with just around eight minutes left for play, it is difficult not to empathize with the Socceroos head coach. He’d come close to taking Australia to Mexico ’86, only to fall at the final hurdle, and once again he’s got that feeling of defeat occupying his thoughts. Arok has thrown his last dice, and must hope that his players can conjure up something unexpected in a late show. It looks all the more unlikely.
Half-hearted penalty shout
In Tel Aviv, the Israelis had been awarded a second half penalty when a decision had gone against Alan Davidson for handball. The Australians think they are right to stake their own claim for a penalty when an 82 minute ball into the centre of the area by Trimboli appears to have accidentally struck the hand of Tikva, who was back deep inside his own area to defend. With the images rather grainy, it is difficult to determine whether their shout is a qualified one or not, though the referee is nowehere near concurring with the pleas.
Visitors take their time
Understandably in the circumstances, the Israelis take any opportunity to waste time. They are slow in restarting play after any kind of stop, and Ohana and Alon both go to ground and claim to be injured, prompting the visitors’ physio on for some light treatment. Unsurprisingly, both continue without further ado. While this aids their plight, it contributes further to Australian frustration. Such tactics are a double advantage to the Israelis, at least as long as the referee doesn’t add plenty of time on at the end of the original 90 minutes.
Out of the blue, the home side draw level. They had tried the long ball forward all afternoon to very little effect, though with just over two minutes left for play, they all of a sudden succeed. Yankos, whose lofted balls had often been of disappointing quality, this time managed to pick out Arnold, who had come into a more central position to head on. Arnold’s flicked header was an excellent one, and it fell down invitingly inside the area for young Trimboli, who connected first time with a low finish which found its way into the back of the net. Was it a case of too little, too late, though? It all seemed to hinge on whether the referee would punish the visitors for their time wasting.
There is to be no fairytale ending to the game from the hosts’ perspective, as there is precious little football played in the wake of Trimboli’s second ever goal at international level. The Israelis manage to effectively quench the remaining game time, firstly in making a substitution right in the wake of the goal, with Eitan Aharoni coming on for Tikva, seemingly taking his place in Tikva’s midfield position, and secondly when Ohana again goes to ground. It happened when he’d been challenged in the air by van Egmond, who is penalised by the referee, who then tries to drag the Israeli forward back up on to his feet. Another few precious seconds are wasted until Sinai strikes at goal directly from the free-kick 40 yards out, way over, and upon resumption through Olver’s goal kick, the referee blows for full time. He added a mere 40 seconds of stoppage time, something which totally angered the Australians.
Upon that final whistle, Mitchell, Yankos and Davidson all approach the Italian referee, who just arrogantly brushes them off. Frank Arok enters the pitch and goes straight to Mr Longhi, who is totally unwilling to listen to anything which anyone in Australian colours has to say. Surely, there ought to have been much more time added, though the game is all over, and it is the Israelis who can celebrate qualification group stage victory. They are the ones who make it through to the intercontinental play-off stage this time around.
Australia were looking to take advantage of the carnival atmosphere inside the packed Sydney Football Stadium, and the fact that they had, on paper, their very strongest team available for this crucial final qualifier. However, they failed to live up to their slight favourites tag, as the dogged visitors defended deep and without too much bother. They managed to stifle the Australians, despite the hosts’ big amount of possession. Towards the end of the first half, the away side even went in front as Ohana seized on some poor defending and rounded the ‘keeper to score.
The hosts made a half-time substitution in order to add impetus, but though they had looked determined in the early stages, their enthusiasm soon wore off as they just hoisted aerial balls into the centre like they had done before the break. Alon won headers all day. The Australians could not conjure up an equalizer until it was soo late, when young substitute Trimboli struck home from 12 yards with two minutes left.
With next to no time added on despite the visitors’ time wasting, the home side’s players and management team alike were enraged. Not that the referee at any point felt like reconsidering…and Israel were through to the intercontinental phase of the qualification.
1 Olver 7.0
did ever so well to tip a first half effort from Ohana, via van Egmond, around the post, but fortunate not to concede a penalty for foul on Rosenthal. Other than that confident and reliable throughout
2 Šavor 6.6
again found Rosenthal a tricky customer to deal with, as he was turned and outrun on a couple of occasions. Compensated through some deeper positioning
3 Davidson 6.7
wasn’t utilised a whole lot along the left hand side. Brought an extra pair of legs to the defence when necessary, whereas he remained peripheral whilst the Australians were in possession
4 Yankos 6.5
rarely called upon defensively, but was outwitted once by Sinai, and his long balls and even his free-kicks were both a disappointment. Not as commanding as the Socceroos would’ve wanted, and even was to blame for his blip which led to the goal. Atoned somewhat for his ball up field which ultimately brought the equalizer
5 van Egmond 7.0
stuck well to Ohana, brought a bit of pace to the backline, but couldn’t dig his captain out for the goal which they conceded
6 Wade 6.5
was aimed at for a couple of diagonal free-kicks into the area, though couldn’t use his aerial strength to effect. Would often come inside in possession, and showed a reluctance to provide width in open play
(13 Petersen 7.0
played with his tail up from the moment he came on, and did allow Crino to participate slightly higher in the pitch. Strong in the challenge, a couple of efforts goalwards, but influence waned as the half wore on)
7 Farina 6.6
not quite what had been expected of him, as he became slightly anonymous down either flank. Visitors marked him well throughout, and didn’t let him take advantage of his pace. Still a major surprise when he was substituted
(15 Trimboli –
came on and wanted the ball; moved from right to left. Difficult to pick up, and ultimately got on the end of Arnold’s flicked header for that late goal)
8 Mitchell 6.9
took some time to get going, but often turned out too peripheral when out in the channels. At times attempted to work off Krnčević through the centre, and seemed to thrive when involved more. The better among the ‘big three’ up front
9 Arnold 6.7
only had a couple of spells in which he proved effective in his attacking midfield role, and didn’t always seem comfortable. Excellent header on for Trimboli’s equalizer. At the end of a couple of big challenges in the latter first half stage
10 Crino 6.7
in a slightly deeper role than previously, at least during the first half, Crino saw plenty of battle, and even that side of his game was sound. With midfield at times overlooked due to their tendency to hit it long, he wasn’t as much in possession as he would’ve wanted
11 Krnčević 6.5
was dealt with swiftly by Alon, and must have felt disappointed that he could not have contributed to a greater extent. Was aimed at all game, but failed to win key headers. Drew plenty of fouls
1 Ginzburg 6.9
displayed his tendency to come off his line in varying degrees of traffic ahead of him. Was almost exposed twice, but strikers couldn’t take advantage
2 Cohen II 7.3
stuck to his defensive task really well, and took no prisoners in his challenges. The imposing defender acquitted himself well, whether it be against Farina or Mitchell, and tucked inside when needed
3 Amar 7.2
let the goalscorer in behind his back for the leveller, but other than that stood up well to the defensive battle all afternoon. Another solid display by a no-nonsense defender
4 Klinger 6.8
a steady contributor alongside Davidi, and offered a couple of runs into the right hand channel. Rarely seen in possession
5 Parselani 7.2
swept well, and put in a couple of vital blocks as home players were attempting to pull the trigger. Saw yellow for a (very) professional foul on Arnold. Generally went with a ‘safety first’ approach
6 Alon 7.6
was rarely lured outside of the box, and did exceptionally well in battle, where he particularly excelled in aerial duels with Krnčević. Again came out comfortably on top in those challenges
7 Sinai 6.6
again tried to orchestrate some of their counter-attacks, though his final pass was at times inaccurate. Perhaps a bit of a luxury player, as he rarely tracked back to chase opponents? A couple of wasted free-kicks from distance
8 Davidi 6.9
never the most prolific Israeli, but covered a great deal of ground at the rear of midfield, where his break-up of play meant a lot to his defenders
9 Tikva 6.8
had a more defensive role this time around, and probably caught more attention for a couple of involvements inside his own box than for what he did inside the opposition’s half. Not afraid to get stuck in, though less effective behind the front two this time around
(14 Aharoni –
brought on for further defensive cover in the dying stages. In fact, looked to slot into a midfield position)
10 Ohana 7.0
found van Egmond not the easiest of opponents, though his major contribution was obviously that highly crucial goal, so effort could still not be faulted. At the heart of some late time-wasting
11 Rosenthal 7.2
full of effort in his left-sided striker’s role, and again proved a threat on the counter with his pace. Should’ve had a first half penalty. Linked up alright with Tikva