Australia 6-0 Uzbekistan: Australian counter-attacking tears apart terrible Uzbekistan defence
Australia were excellent early on, before a crazy second half saw Uzbekistan collapse completely.
Australia coach Holger Osieck named an unchanged side from the one which defeated Iraq in the quarter-finals.
Vadim Abramov made various changes to his side, including leaving out Alexander Geynrikh, who didn’t even appear as a substitute. He set his side out in a 4-3-3 / 4-2-3-1 shape, although with some unusual modifications.
This game would be a contender for the biggest ever discrepancy between possession and goals. In the first half, Uzbekistan had 68% of possession, and it was 57% at the end of the second. Despite this, they offered almost no realistic goal threat and were constantly undone by simple, quick Australian counter-attacks.
Uzbekistan were remarkably patient in possession, playing the ball across the pitch as if they were playing out a 1-0 win, even when they went behind in the game. Their full-backs were allowed time on the ball, but there was no urgency to get it forward, Uzbekistan were simply happy to have the ball in non-threatening areas.
The most interesting aspect of their shape was the role of Odil Akhmedov, who acted as the main playmaker despite starting from a centre-back position. He took advantage of his fellow defenders taking a long time to play the ball forward to push into the midfield positions to dictate play, and was clearly the best passer on the team.
His natural position at club level is as a central midfielder, and it’s difficult to see why he wasn’t deployed there on a full-time basis in this game, such was his insistence on moving forward to try and create. Still, despite his efforts Uzbekistan rarely produced anything in the third of the pitch – Australia’s only worry was Luke Wilkshire, who looked vulnerable early on, but he was rarely tested.
Australia’s tactics worked excellently. They held a reasonably deep defensive line and generally let Uzbekistan come onto them, although there was pressure in the centre of midfield when forward passes were attempted, and occasionally from the front two. After Harry Kewell’s early breakaway goal, the pattern of play was established – Australia would let Uzbekistan build up play from the back, but then suddenly pressure the man in possession, get numbers around the ball, and break with quick, direct balls forward.
It must be acknowledged that Australia’s life was made very, very easy by the openness of Uzbekistan. As well as pushing one of their centre-backs forward, the midfield had no set structure with no player permanently covering the defence. Australia won the ball in midfield and almost always found themselves with 3 v 3 situations on the break, with Brett Holman drifting inside to make contact with the front two. Kewell was having a field day with his pace whilst Tim Cahill found space between the (increasingly non-existent) lines, and Australia genuinely could have won this match by far more than the 6-0 scoreline.
Joy down the left
The left side worked particularly well for Australia. Matt McKay was positionally disciplined, attacking and defending at the right moments. He linked well with Kewell, but also remained in position when David Carney overlapped from full-back, taking advantage of Maksim Shatskikh’s lack of interest in defending, and also the veteran’s tendency to move inside. Carney could have made it 3-0 towards the end of the first half with a chip but eventually scored in the second to make it 3-0. Uzbekistan going down to ten men moments later effectively signalled the end of the game.
At 3-0 and 11 v 10, the game was ludicrous – Australia were simultaneously able to sit back and conserve energy for the final, whilst frequently opening up Uzbekistan with a minimum of effort. They frequently had 3 v 2 on the break after very, very simple passes – the performance of the Uzbekistan defence simply doesn’t deserve comment. Even the Australian goalscorers looked slightly embarrassed.
Having impressed up to this point, this was a sad way for Uzbekistan to exit the competition, especially as they’d shown themselves to be decent technical players, and especially good at keeping possession.
Australia’s tactics were almost decided for them by the way Uzbekistan played, but the counter-attacking worked superbly. Perhaps even more importantly, Australia only had to battle for 55 minutes here – less than half the time Japan had to fight for in their win over Korea earlier in the day. In a tournament that has seen tiredness creep in frequently at the end of games, that might prove crucial for the final on Saturday.