Socceroos sloppiness was borderline criminal
IT'S a worrying thought that Bert van Marwijk's team selection against Hungary offered substantially more to talk about than the performance those players then produced.
For all that Daniel Arzani's debut goal sprinkled a little stardust on Australia's win in Budapest, it was a scrappy, discordant and discomforting display that would surely have been punished by a better side.
The most alarming aspect is that the XI who began the game was the same as against the Czech Republic last week, and seems a shoo-in to start in Australia's World Cup against France next Saturday.
That Australia would start the World Cup shorn of captain Mile Jedinak was a startling thought, and no one saw an unchanged side coming against Hungary - possibly not even Jedinak himself.
"When Jedinak is playing he is captain," van Marwijk said after last week's victory over the Czech Republic.
When he is playing - words that in retrospect had plenty of meaning.
Suggestions are that Jedinak's laboured performance against Norway in March marked his card to some degree, though he was scarcely alone in emerging from that horror show with his reputation not enhanced.
Against France, in the cauldron of an opening World Cup fixture, players can freeze, especially those at their first such tournament. That's where it was presumed that Jedinak's presence, imperturbability and physicality would be essential.
It may yet prove to be, for his halftime introduction immediately gave more coherence to the Australian structure, pushing the team's centre of gravity higher up the field.
It was no coincidence that Tom Rogic immediately had the chance to get on the ball more in the first 10 minutes of the second half than he had for the whole of the first.
So van Marwijk has much to ponder, and so much of it not from a position of strength. The sloppiness on the ball was criminal at times, from senior players including Trent Sainsbury, Mark Milligan and even Aaron Mooy.
Twice Milligan was fortunate to escape seeing poor touches lead to a Hungarian goal, and the message from van Marwijk for the past three weeks about the value of ball retention seemed to have disappeared on the breeze.
Does it all matter? History is littered with teams who go into World Cups in miserable form and it vanishes when they get there.
But van Marwijk wanted more evidence that his training methods are bearing fruit, and he got almost none. The next seven days become utterly crucial if the team is to be ready for France.