If the press coverage of England’s 3-1 win over Mexico seemed a tad harsh to some, it was nothing compared to the tabloid panning the Australian side received after a thoroughly unconvincing win over New Zealand on Monday.
Australia were lucky to only head into the interval one goal down, before a brighter second half performance saw them squeeze out a win against a New Zealand side ranked 54 places below them in the FIFA ratings.
Like the media, boss Pim Verbeek was clearly unimpressed, and with only two warm-up matches left until they begin their opening Group D game against Germany, he has wielded the axe and cut his 31-man squad down to 28.
Midfielder Nick Carle, defender Jade North and, most surprisingly, former Celtic striker Scott McDonald have all been dropped.
Now at Middlesbrough, McDonald hasn’t scored an international goal for 16 games and it seems he has paid for his drought, though Verbeek claims that it is because the forward doesn’t fit in to his system, labelling him a “two-striker player”.
Instead, Verbeek is favouring the lone frontman approach, with 6ft 4in battering ram Josh Kennedy instead entrusted to do the offensive leg work while the likes of Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill open up defences.
With just one other striker now in the squad, Twente’s inexperienced Nikita Rukavytsya, it’s evident that Verbeek believes the best way to get through arguably the toughest group at the tournament – with Serbia and Ghana joining the Germans – is to win the battle in midfield.