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It was as close-run a thing as Graham Arnold and the Socceroos would ever like to leave it. Playing a totally unfancied Oman side with no big names and no players on the rosters of any major European club, the Socceroos did all they possibly could to leave the stadium with their post-World Cup reputation in tatters.
In fact, it can be reasonably said that Oman would be kicking themselves for not taking the spoils from the match. Leaving aside their unnecessary and ugly attempts feigning injury, the Australian defence handed them three clear-cut opportunities to well and truly seal the game. It was only the brilliance of Mark Schwarzer that allowed Tim Cahill to scramble through the equaliser in injury time.
Luke Wilkshire, especially, had a night he would like to forget in a hurry. He overhit or misdirected a number of corners and free kicks in plum positions around the opposition box.
Of the Premiership stars, Harry Kewell did little more than prove that he is best utilised when he plays on the left. It was Mark Viduka, however, who was the biggest disappointment of the night. For a player who scored 20-odd Premiership goals last season, he did nothing to justify his position at the head of the Australian attack.
Continuing the lacklustre form he showed in the World Cup, Viduka found it impossible to do little more than pass the ball back to the player who gave it to him in the first place. His fans often cling to the fact that "he holds the ball up". They must realise, however, for a striker around whom so much of the attack is focussed Viduka needs to do a helluva lot more than simply pass pass the ball backwards. On the international stage, he does not seem to have the skill to beat a defender on his own or put a team mate into a gap.
A number of reasons could be attributed to the insipid Australian display tonight. If Arnold is serious about winning the Asian Cup, he needs to reorganise his defence and provide an opportunity to a new striker or tell Viduka to pull his finger out and do the job that his country expects of him.
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