SOCCEROOS coach Ange Postecoglou gained one valuable nugget of knowledge from his recent trip to China – the A-League is still richer in quality than the cashed-up Super League.
In preparation for Australia’s final round of World Cup qualifying, Postecoglou toured the Middle Kingdom last month to watch the current crop of Socceroos lured there by lucrative contracts.
In a mission to gauge the standard of football they’re playing he took in four matches, including Melbourne Victory’s 3-1 Asian Champions League loss to Shanghai SIPG.
“I saw (Apostolos) Giannou, Timmy (Cahill), Spira (Matthew Spiranovic), (Trent) Sainsbury, (uncapped defender Aleksander) Jovanovic and (Michael) Thwaite – I saw about half a dozen boys,” Postecoglou told AAP.
“It was a good experience, at least I know now the context of the football they’re playing.” “The good thing is all the players – apart from James Troisi who’s picked up an injury – are starting and playing virtually 90 minutes.
“We’ve obviously got the friendlies coming up against Greece and because the A-League boys are finished now, it’s important we’ve got some players who are playing deep into May.”
Postecoglou was impressed with the high calibre of foreigners at China’s top clubs, which have been laying out record multi-million dollar sums for big European and South American names as part of the country’s aim to become a global football powerhouse.
But the gap between rich and poor has forced smaller sides to set up defensively in their fight for survival, which he observed was markedly different to the A-League’s overall more proactive game.
“China has still got a way to go in terms of its development,” Postecoglou said.
“The beauty of it for our players is that individually they’re matching up with some very good players.
“The foreigners there from all over the globe are absolutely top quality, so our guys are getting tested individually which is great.
“But in the overall intensity and tempo I’ll be honest, I think the A-League is probably a little bit ahead of it at the moment, just in terms of the general level of the game.
Troisi, who scored the winner in last year’s Asian Cup final, has been pushing to get back into the national team set-up since joining fellow Australian Thwaite at Liaoning Whowin.
But the 27-year-old forward has suffered a groin injury that will sideline him for a further few weeks and puts him in selection doubt for the Socceroos’ away friendly with England on May 27. Most, maybe all China-based Socceroos will not be released to play the England game as it doesn’t fall within FIFA dates, though they’ll be eligible for June’s two-game home series with Greece before the last round of World Cup qualifying begins in September.