Australia's odd couple must play in tandem
One stands at 194cm, the other at 173cm. One resembles Jesus Christ (hence his nickname, The Messiah), the other a pit-bull terrier.
But don't count on the performance being a dream duet in attack. Oh no, no, no. While Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek has hinted that both players will start the game, he declared that the lone striker system would stay, meaning one of them - McDonald - will be forced to play in Tim Cahill's attacking midfield role.
So much for the dream of seeing both strikers unleashed - together at the same time - on the opposition defence…
Verbeek's a stubborn man and refuses to move from his ironclad ideology and is as set in his ways as a Melbourne tram on its CBD route. This trait has its pros and cons. Therefore, the lone striker system is here to stay, and I guess, Socceroo fans better get used to it.
Why Verbeek refuses to even toy with the concept of playing both players up front is beyond both the media and supporters alike. And you can understand the frustration. Here is a man who shows such great patience, time after time, in international misfit Brett Holman, yet has little interest in dabbling with a two-man strike-force, particularly when the opportunity presents itself when the player assigned to the attacking midfielder role, Cahill, is absent from the line-up.
Sure, Verbeek's probably thinking that he needs to understand which players are capable of playing his preferred system should key players, like Cahill, be unavailable. However, what about a Plan B? A little versatility or a splash of mystery?
Don't get me wrong, I like Pim and what he's done for the national squad. I applaud the fact that he plays to get results, regardless of how dull and boring the performance may be. If anything, he's realistic about the quality of his stock, therefore has them playing accordingly.
It's as clear as day that Verbeek regards the Socceroos as a team that's restricted to hitting teams on the break rather than overwhelming the opposition with waves of attacks. However, at some point, the Socceroos will need to attack from the outset, particularly if they want to advance beyond the group stage of the World Cup, or any knock-out tournament for that matter.
A World Cup group usually contains a top seed that finishes the group stage in its seeded position. As the Socceroos discovered in 2006, it's second place that can be a three-way fight.
The Socceroos are far from a top seed, therefore don't have the ability to take on, let's say a Spain, at their own game. In such games, Verbeek's lone striker system is ideal. Two holding/defensive midfielders occupy the space in front of the back four, while the other three midfielders have the ability to get behind the ball and defend, or conversely, get forward quickly on the break to support the lone striker in attack.
The Kennedy-McDonald combination debuted in Australia's 2010 World Cup qualifier against Qatar in February 2008. Coincidentally, it was also Verbeek's first game in charge of the Socceroos. It was a game that Australia won 3-0; Kennedy scoring after 10 minutes. The pair looked dangerous as they combined together, and while McDonald failed to get his name on the scoresheet, it was perhaps his best performance for the national team.
Since then, we've seen more eclipses than McDonald and Kennedy playing together. Verbeek has explored a number of combinations since the Qatar game, however the focus has been on discovering the right personnel for his system, not so much the system for the personnel.
Matches like the friendly against South Korea are a chance to experiment using the two-man attack. The odd couple reference obviously refers to their height difference. Perhaps it should refer to the fact they rarely play together, which to me seems pretty odd.