Monday, July 7, 2008

On the Olympics

Somehow, Graham 'Arnie' Arnold has decided that Nathan Burns and (to a lesser extent, I don't rate him as highly) Bruce Djite are "only 20", and "they can't play in the heat, no matter who they are.".

Moreover, he was looking for "maturity, quality, athleticism, speed and tactical nous."
Burns: check, check, check, check, depends on form (can still drift in and out of games occasionally).
Djite: check, check, check, check, check.

Wait. They've ticked all the boxes, so why really aren't they there? The adage that "if you're good enough you're old enough" should hold: Rooney played for England at 17, Messi was a first team regular at Barcelona and Argentina at 17/18, Robinho for Brazil at 19, and Fernando Torres for Spain at 19 (as well as already captaining Atletico Madrid)? What does Arnold know about age in football that the Brazilians, Spanish, Argentinians and English don't? (Note: I'm not saying Burns and Djite at as good as those mentioned: for Australia, though, they may be as important.)

The both of them ticked all of the boxes. Furthermore, Burns has the habit of changing games - for Adelaide United, he was the go-to man (boy!), even if it sometimes didn't come off. He put Binh Dong to the sword in the Asian Champions' League with a hattrick of assists, dribbling the ball past the entire defence before setting up Travis Dodd (twice) and Diego Walsh (the American "Brazilian"). Even out of form, Burns was still more than able to control the ball, hold off some monster defender twice his size, and lay off a ball to a man in space - a lot more than could be said for most of the rest of the A-League.

Djite was taken to Kunming, China with the Socceroos for a vital away clash, and before his training ground injury, was going to start before Archie Thompson (way more overrated than Djite in my not so humble opinion, too). Pim Verbeek obviously thought he was good enough, and Kunming was one of the more challenging locations at just over 1800m above sea level. Even with my scepticism of his ability (mainly in the finishing department), Djite is still painful to play against - strong, quick, can play with his back to goal all day - and was playing as a lone striker for all of the last A-league season. Being up front by yourself isn't an easy job, yet Djite did it.

Oh, did I mention that Burns and Djite were actually the fittest members of Adelaide's squad? Yet, Kristian Sarkies is on the plane. Every time that kid got the ball, he'd kill an attacking move. Adelaide do like playing on the counter - with players that can run like Burns, Djite, Dodd and Lucas Pantelis, why not - but Sarkies was often too slow to either get the ball moving, or always chose the wrong option. His set piece delivery (which is delightful) would have had to have been his only saving grace.

Anyway, I'm ticked. I haven't seen James Holland (Newcastle Jets) play much (and I was fairly tipsy during the A-League GF), so I haven't an opinion on his ability, nor David Williams. However, these four young attackers have been left out for Thompson (who isn't good enough as a striker for the senior side anyway). David Carney (a left wing(er/-back) has also been selected despite James Troisi being in the squad. Waste of a couple of over-age places, what?

I guess don't mention that Burns proved his maturity as a person in his response - despite being devastated, he was an absolute gentleman.

So: seriously, Arnold, what are you doing?

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