Mike Cockerill

A win for the Qantas Socceroos, a win for Holger Osieck, a win for common sense, but most importantly of all, a win for the Hyundai A-League. It was a champagne night in Hwaseong, in every sense.

First things first. A turning point on the road to Rio? Could be. The last few minutes in Doha breathed new life into a faltering World Cup campaign.

Archie Thompson's last-gasp winner against Iraq certainly pumped up the Melbourne Victory veteran. Witness his post-match spray at the so-called critics. I wonder if Archie holds the same view now?

The clamour for rejuvenating an ageing list has been reaching a crescendo. The merits of doing so have been obvious, perhaps from the moment the "golden generation" just missed out on the Asian Cup trophy in early 2011.

It's taken a while, but it's finally starting to happen. After the building block laid in Doha, this win over the South Koreans has offered a launching pad.

With three of the final four World Cup qualifiers in home soil - starting with the match in March against Oman in Sydney - Osieck and his players can now plan with a priceless ingredient in their kitbag: confidence.

That confidence has come from youth, and exuberance. It's often the way. Youth can be measured in age, or experience. On both counts, Osieck took a plunge against the Koreans. It worked a treat.

A prime example is Michael Thwaite. Age, 29. Caps, six. Played out of position at left back, before moving into a holding midfield role in a second-half reshuffle. Thwaite had a blinder - "no look" passes and all. He seized the opportunity, and has certainly given Osieck something to think about.

Ryan McGowan is another. Age 23, Caps, one. He's been ready for a while now, and looked so assured in a right back role where the Qantas Socceroos lack specialists. Strong, mobile, adventurous. There's so much to like about his game. Osieck can't help but be impressed.

Six of the starters against the Koreans had just 29 caps between them. All four substitutes were making their debuts. Away from home, against a team who almost never lose at home, offered the perfect test for NextGen. Osieck had called it a "measuring stick" before the match. Well his options have grown enormously.

With results in the other World Cup qualifiers going Australia's way, this was one of those rare nights when everything came together. It could well be a turning point in the team's evolution. Let's see.

In the meantime, let's rejoice in the the most significant element of this performance, and result. Seven of the starters either came through the Hyundai A-League, or are playing in the competition now. The same applies to all four replacements. Australia ended the match with eight HAL products on the park.

Not since the early stages of the 2011 Asian Cup campaign has the team had such a local flavour.

We all know what former coach Pim Verbeek thought of that. Archie Thompson doesn't need reminding. He was described as "hopeless" by his coach in the lead-up to perhaps the low-point of the process, the match against Kuwait in Canberra in March, 2009.

The Qantas Socceroos lost that day, and three players (Mitch Nichols, Daniel Mullen and Fabien Barbiero) were considered so low in the pecking order that they wore triple-digit numbers.

Robbie Cornthwaite didn't (he wore no.35), but he felt the pain of a crushing defeat as much as anyone. More than three years later, "Biggles" finally got another chance to prove he deserves to be an international player. The former Adelaide United defender duly obliged by bobbing up to score the winner against the Koreans. Vindication? You could say that. Both for Cornthwaite, and the Hyundai A-League.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not reflect those of Football Federation Australia.
Comments (5)
To say you can't play World Cup with some A League players is stupid, a mix of youth and experience can perform just as well as the experienced players in the last World Cup. Look at NZ they performed well with most of their players coming from the A League. If your talking about winning the World Cup then that is a dream so wake up and play a mix of youth and experienced players because we are rebuilding and should be looking to the 2018 World Cup for a much better showing. I would also take Archie if his from holds out as a player who can come on late in a game and offer speed and experience.
Craig  |  
18 Nov 2012 11:51 AM
Cockerill , still writing rubbish , aren't you. This is just a friendly game with a experimental Korean team , this is only a game in Asia . World Cup is a different level , do really think Archie is good enough to play in a World Cup , open your eyes , you only presenting lipservice stories , not based on reality. You cannot play a World Cup with A-League players , stop dreaming and writing rubbish
Dennis  |  
15 Nov 2012 07:52 PM
As Robbie Slater and Bozza said at 2010 WC, the time for building for 2014 starts now, not in 2 years. By now Sarota, Oar and Leckie should have 2 years experience in the Socceroos. We need an Australian coach. Ange ! Someone who doesn't plan on just scrapping through which is Pim and Holgers plan. They want to just qualify as Frank Lowy asked them. Ange, Arnold, Kosmina, Robbie, Bozza, Foster or any Australian will want us to not just aim to qualify, but aim to win the WC ! When you aim to draw or scrape through, you lose. When you aim to win 5-0, you win 2-0. No more Euro coaches. Haven't we learnt ? Holger is going to do the same as Pim and on game day 1 WC 2014 leave off some of our best players and put on some relatively unheard of guy that no one talks about (Davidson, North, Thwaite, Cornthwaite). I don't want any more nasty suprises. I want to win the world cup. Get rid of Holger ! He will put in Thwaites and leave out Oar, Leckie and Rogic ! Our main problem is our coach ! We have players to have one of the best teams in the world. He has already missed 2 years of experience for Oar, Leckie and Rogic etc.
Lester  |  
15 Nov 2012 04:28 PM
I missed the first half hour but I gather we took a while to get moving. God knows why Holger started Thwaite at left back when he had Behich ready to go. It's really hard playing wide when you're used to the centre...and vice versa...it was asking for trouble and we duly conceded (with Neill and Cornthwaite ballwatching). But after Thwaite moved to the centre and Behich came on, we suddenly took control of the game. James Holland was magnificent and all the other youngsters did very well. It was really enjoyable to watch. Time to prune out the old blokes Holger! How I'd lobe to see something like Schwarzer, McGowan, Neill, Thwaite, Behich, Kruse, Holland, Holman, Oar, Cahill, Ruka...with any number of others pressing for a start. Suddenly the depth is unbelievable. Well spotted Pim!
Mr Cleansheets  |  
15 Nov 2012 11:35 AM
The east Asia qualifiers could be a really good thing for Australian football, the chance to give more A-League based players a chance will hopefully be taken by Holger Osieck. Eli Babalj being available to play in them will be a major point of interest to me, from only limited minutes last night I feel that he and Tom Rogic could really create an attacking partnership for Australia for a long period. I am not sold on Cornthwaite and surely we can dispense with Matty Mckay at the back now that Behich has arrived, regardless Mckay should be in the centre of midfield because it is where he does his best work, the poor distribution particularly in the first half from the centre of midfield really made it hard for Tommy Oar and Archie Thompson to have an impact. Holland improved in the second half but Valeri, unfortunately has not improved for years. I congratulate him on 50 caps but he should not receive any more. Ryan McGowan was my man of the match and I cannot see any reason for makeshift right backs as we move forward. C'mon you socceroos, go wanderers!
Erik  |  
15 Nov 2012 11:08 AM
How far will Western Sydney go in the AFC Champions League?

Michael Cockerill

Former Sydney Morning Herald chief football writer and current Fox Sports commentator, Michael Cockerill is the associate editor of footballaustralia.com.au. He has spent 27 years reporting on Australian football, including six FIFA World Cup finals, seven FIFA World Cup qualification campaigns by the Qantas Socceroos, three Olympic Games football tournaments, the National Soccer League, the Hyundai A-League, Westfield W-League, and grassroots and community football.