FORMER Adelaide coach John Kosmina says the Socceroos were forced into playing a lot of backpasses by Norway, rather than it necessarily being a focus of Bert van Marwijk’s game style.
In van Marwijk’s first game, which the Socceroos lost 4-1, nearly 30 per cent of Australia’s passes went backwards, according to the Fox Sports Lab.
That was in stark contrast to the home and away clashes with Honduras under Ange Postecoglou, in which just 20 and 15 per cent of passes went backwards respectively.
Listen to Adam Peacock, Simon Hill and John Kosmina on the Fox Football Podcast
Fox Sports’ Adam Peacock said the high number indicated that players were looking to impress van Marwijk by playing it safe with their passing.
“Both Ange and Bert appear to want to play with high possession game and that’s reflected in the stats,” Peacock said on the Fox Football Podcast.
“We attempted nearly 600 passes against Norway (and) completed 485.
“But the key for me against the Honduras ones — so Honduras away, 15 per cent of passes went backwards. 20 per cent at home in the home tie against Honduras went backwards.
“Nearly 30 per cent — so double, on the figures here that Fox Sports Lab have provided, double the amount of passes against Norway went backwards as they did in the home tie against Honduras.
“So that to me tells you — and I got the impression looking at it, you’re a much more learned scholar, Kossie, in things like this — they were not confused but they were hoping to impress the coach by doing what he said and that is hold onto the ball, keeping possessions safe.”
But Kosmina said it was Norway’s compact defence that had forced the Socceroos to play backwards.
“Just thinking back, I actually looked at a number of times in central areas where we did try and play balls forward where we tried to break a line and Norway actually defended that quite well,” he said.
“They were nice and compact and narrow, so they did make it difficult for us to play forward.”
Kosmina said a lack of familiarity with some players, like debutant Andrew Nabbout, would have also contributed to the uncertainty.
“The other thing is if you’re playing with people that you’re not accustomed to playing with, and I’ll use Andrew Nabbout as an example, was he really available for a bounce?” he said.
“He’s looking more to play like he does with Newcastle where he peels out and gets those balls that are knocked over the top because Ernie Merrick loves his teams to play balls forward, they don’t mind those ones where you chase it straight on.
“So look, I think yes, they wanted to keep possession but I do think that it wasn’t always about not playing forward,
“I think Norway actually stopped us playing forward a number of times, they had a lot of intercepts.”
Kosmina emphasised that Norway were a quality side.
“They’re a rebuilding phase, they didn’t make the World Cup,” he said.
“They played poorly in the qualifiers but … they’ve got some quality players in their side as well.”