THE Confederations Cup kicks-off this weekend and we asked international football analyst Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) for his thoughts on the Group B encounter between Australia and Germany.
Australia v Germany | Monday 16:00 | ITV
Australia conceded after just 12 seconds in their final warm-up fixture against a Neymar-less Brazil with the Socceroos falling to a 4-0 thumping in Melbourne. Eccentric head coach Ange Postecoglou will be desperate to avoid another chastening reverse here but the Asian champions look to be up against it.
Postecoglou blamed himself for his team’s second-half surrender to the Selecao and Australian supporters are now fearing the worst ahead of a opening Confederations Cup encounter with World Cup winners Germany in Sochi.
It was the only Socceroos loss in nine but the current crop are labouring in World Cup qualification against continental opposition they once dominated. A vital 3-2 home triumph over Saudi Arabia earlier this month was unconvincing and there’s no doubt the senior side have regressed in the past two years.
The core of the Asian Cup-winning team remains in place. However, the younger generation has failed to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, who cut their teeth in Europe’s top leagues. Tim Cahill is still part of the set-up at 37 but he’s one of only two players aged over 30.
Cahill’s inclusion is a symbol of Australia’s inability to produce a goal-scoring successor to the former Everton man whilst the loss of captain Mile Jedinak to injury pre-tournament has to be seen as a blow.
Massimo Luongo, Aaron Mooy and Tom Rogic should feature from the off and although the midfield looks reasonable, the Socceroos still don’t look comfortbale enough to cope with Postecoglou’s new-look 3-2-4-1 formation.
The ‘roos will play with plenty of spirit and energy and having notched in 15 of their past 16 outings, they’ll have fancy their chances of troubling a German rearguard missing Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng. Ultimately however, Australia’s defence just isn’t strong enough to silence Germany and it could be a long afternoon for the Group B underdogs.
Germany giving youth a chance
The World Cup-winning coach Joachim Low openly criticised the tournament and opted to use the opportunity to give his more established players a rest rather than fine-tune his team’s preparations for next summer’s more important battle.
Die Mannschaft have selected a virtual B-team with no players aged 30 or over, while the two oldest players, the forwards Sandro Wagner and Lars Stindl have both won just two caps each. The most experienced player is captain Julian Draxler, who has only 30 caps.
Of the team who started the Euro 2016 semi-final against France, only four – Joshua Kimmich, Jonas Hector, Emre Can and Julian Draxler – have travelled to Russia, whilst 15 of the 21 squad members have played no more than 10 times for the seniors.
The betting angle
Although I’m happy to oppose Germany at the prices to win outright because of these changes, I’m still confident this team can make a solid start. Having bedded in during recent meetings with Denmark and San Marino, the squad’s had a bit of time to gel on and off the pitch and their class should tell.
Die Mannschaft have a wealth of attacking options, have won all six competitive matches since their European Championship exit and lead at the interval in all six outings. Having suffered one defeat in 17 and returned W8-D2-L0 in their past 10, I’ll back Germany to be ahead at half-time and full-time at 11/10 (Paddy Power).
Australia v Germany – Germany/Germany (11/10 Paddy Power)