With Australia set to face Japan tonight, the alarm bells are beginning to ring for the Socceroos. Manager Holger Osieck continues to select the aging stars over the ‘up and comers’, who realistically, lack the same class of the ‘golden era’ boys. What will a blood-thirsty Samurai Blue do to the ailing Socceroos squad?

Much speculation surrounds Tim Cahill this week as the Everton midfielder was left to sit on the bench while Australia crawled to a draw against Oman on Friday night (08/06/12). Some have guessed at an issue being between Cahill and manager Osieck as cause for his benching, but in the modern game it’s common for manager’s to save players for a bigger date, and to use the full depth of a squad. It’s ironic that we discuss Cahill being left out of the team in context of a ‘perceived rift’ between he and the manager, while at the same time we question Osieck for not blooding new faces. This blogger however, sees Cahill with his potent record against Japan (twice scoring a brace against them), being used from the outset. Knowing his aura, Osieck will aim to get maximum damage from him.

So how do the Socceroos go about beating Samurai Blue? Manager Holger Osieck is not short of knowledge when it comes to Japanese soccer. The German coached Urawa Reds to the Asian Champions League title in 2007. He was full of praise for the rapid development of the game in Japan, and spoke of a change in mindset of the new generation of Japanese players. Probed on possible weaknesses the German replied, “I don’t know about any advantages we have over Japan but I do know the strengths of our group,” the Socceroos he said, are ” . . . very strong physically and very strong mentally. We play attacking, attractive football.” Some will debate the latter comment, and particularly after tonight’s clash.

Osieck gives a small indication of the tactics which the Socceroos will ‘try’ to employ against Japan. Expect the Socceroos to mark very tight and physically early on, but this kind of ‘grunt labour’ can only be sustained for so long. Unfortunately Australia still believes it can bully the Japanese physically, however, when the whips are cracking around 60 minutes into the tie, stature gives way to stamina. Amongst the problems for the Socceroos is who to shut down. Much attention has been given to Keisuke Honda and new Manchester United signing Shinji Kagawa however, too much focus on those two will allow Endo to have a field day. And if the midfield threat isn’t enough, the marauding fullbacks Nagatomo and Uchida will ensure Australia’s fullbacks and wide midfielders think twice before venturing forward. It will be a tough night for the Aussies, the only chance of a ‘green and gold’ victory would be if they concede an early goal and the Japanese become complacent.

Expect a less than full Brisbane Stadium as the A Class ($95) seating in Brisbane takes up a massive portion of the seating plan. This is very disappointing as the match is the ‘high water’ mark of the qualifying campaign. The match should reach great heights though with the Japanese class sure to catch the eye and if I was a betting man I definitely take some of the $2.60 odds available at some Australian betting agencies.

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