Int Friendly: Australia v Norway Saturday 24th March 4:00am at Ullevaal Stadion, Norway
The road to the World Cup continues for the Socceroos and after going through the longest campaign of any team they will take the field for their first match of 2018. The roller-coaster did not end following the 3-1 win over Honduras with significant changes since. Ange Postecoglou stepped down following 4 years at the helm and it took months for Van Marwijk to be given the role. Then we find out that he will only hold the position up until the completion of the World Cup when Graham Arnold will then take over.
Where does that leave Van Marwijk?
What it means is that the Dutchman has just four friendlies to solve a lot of problems and answer an endless amount of questions. It is understood that the first session in Oslo was the first time that Van Marwijk met or even spoke to any of the players. Nevertheless, it is hard to argue against the need of a fresh face and there is no doubt that the players and fans will rally behind him in the coming weeks. According to The Wolf, the results in the friendlies against Norway and Colombia are more important than many people think. Eye catching performances will create belief while a failure to show any quality will leave fans quationing the decisions of the FFA.
Squad and Formation
As the manager of Saudi Arabia for over two years the Dutchman will be familiar with most of the players and we have seen him make several interesting selections. Andrew Nabbout and Dimitri Petratos have been rewarded with selection on the back of some stunning football for the Jets while Sydney FC’s Josh Brilliante has been recalled after proving that he is the best holding midfielder in the A-League. James Meredith and Aleksandar Susnjar were also surprise additions.
The biggest news to come out of the camp in Oslo is that Van Marwijk is set to bin Postecoglou’s ‘three at the back’ system and revert back to a 4-2-3-1. It is great news for the Socceroos who were uncomfortable and extremely inconsistent with just the three defenders. Risdon is the only right back selected while Behic looks sets to start on the left. The bid decisions will be made in midfield where the Socceroos are stacked.
One would think that he will look to start his best XI which will likely mean captain Mile Jedinak and Aaron Mooy in front of the back four. Rogic should take up the free role behind the target man, but just who that striker will be remains to be seen. The rotation of Juric and Cahill makes most sense leaving the wing roles to be fought out by Leckie, Kruse, Nabbout, Petratos and Rukavytsya.
Stats That Matter
In the closing stages of Postecoglou’s tenure the Socceroos defence was placed under constant pressure. The Socceroos have maintained just 1 clean sheet in their last 11 matches and have scored just 4 goals in their last 6 matches that have not been played on Australian soil. Likewise, Norway perform much better at home. They have the added bonus of having experience in extreme weather conditions. With freezing temperatures forecast this will be a real test for the Socceroos. Norway are undefeated in their last 5 matches at home which includes wins over Azerbaijan and Northern Ireland to go with draws against the Czech Republic and Sweden.
This clash shapes as ideal preparation for the Socceroos second group game at the World Cup against fellow Scandinavian nation Denmark. Van Marwijk has made it clear that he wants the Socceroos to play with tempo but there is no doubt that the focus will first be to set the lines in place in the 4-2-3-1 system. The Socceroos will have more stability on the flanks which should prevent Norway from getting balls into the box from wide areas. With Jedinak, Mooy and Rogic the Aussies should be able to control the centre of the park but the supply to the frontline must improve. Time is not on the Socceroos side and there will be missing links early on. Under 2.5 goals is 6-0 in Socceroos last 6 away games and The Wolf cannot see them scoring multiple goals. Van Marwijk’s first game in control will end ion a 1-1 draw.