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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Exclusive: Paul Nevin's Preview

Former A-League coach Paul Nevin gives us his thoughts on tomorrow's World Cup qualifer clash between Qatar and Australia, exclusively for Football Qatar.

I suspect both coaches will be very glad that the game has finally arrived as both have had many hurdles to over-come in their preparation during the last few weeks. Here though is where the similarity stops. Fossati’s Qatar struggle with depth of talent, especially as the appeal to FIFA for Sebastian Soria fell on deaf ears. The injury to Emerson et al has left the Qatar squad short of notable fire power for the encounter down under. Fossati, an experienced astute coach, will however downplay this disadvantage to his troops and will have a game plan that will suit the personnel available to him. I am also sure that the psychological element of being the underdog will be used to the fullest with the players convinced that their opponents may have sub-consciously taken their eye off the ball during their rushed preparation.

In the other camp we have a new coach , Pim Verbeek, another experienced campaigner having to deal with a new set of circumstances in another part of the world. For Verbeek the difficulty has been working with one set of players for several training camps only to decide to recall the probable starting line-up, a few days before, from their European based clubs who played at the weekend. Under major media scrutiny Verbeek had kept his options open for as long as possible since recently coming in to the position as Australian Coach. His original training camps had consisted of players from the Australian domestic game, the three year old Hyundai A League.

The A League began in 2005 and consists of 8 teams (7 Australian and 1 New Zealand). The improving standard of the League has started to attract more quality Australian players home to play. The teams are a mix of young up and coming domestic players, seasoned Australian campaigners from overseas and foreign imports (such as Dwight Yorke & Juninho). After assessing the level of the domestic League and its Australian players Verbeek opted to reain 7 of these in his squad 21 announced today. Unluckily the current form player Joel Griffiths , the Leagues’ top scorer, had to withdraw to injury this week.

Unfortunately for El Ennabi there are a host of in-form attacking players ready to step in. For example Scott McDonald leading scorer for Celtic in the SPL and David Carney a recent recruit from Sydney for Sheffield United in the English second tier. Incidentally, it was Carney who scored a memorable game winner in Australia’s last competitive outing against Nigeria in November. Add John Aloisi and Josh Kennedy and even without Viduka being available it is quite a threat.

Defensively though maybe a bit easier reading for Fossati, especially in the left defensive position where personnel are not so abundant. Young Nicolai Topor-Stanley has no experience at Senior level and if they play Carney as a wing back he is more proficient going forward.

So both coaches will almost breathe a sigh of relief to get the game under way. Almost a David versus Goliath encounter, owing to Qatar’s unavailable players , they can only hope Goliath struggles to over-come his jet lag.