Viduka makes his mark

MELBOURNE Knights captain Josip Biskic describes Mark Viduka as Australian soccer’s outstanding prospect. Marconi coach Frank Arok is still kicking himself for missing out on Viduka’s signature.

The 18-year-old striker has had a devastating impact on the national league since returning to the Knights six weeks ago after captaining the Australian youth team in an international tournament in Venezuela, where he was the top scorer.

The leading contender for the Australian Players’ Association’s new teenager of the year award, Viduka will continue his international career in Australia’s 1994-95 World Youth Championship campaign and the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

He will then go on to play for the Socceroos. Nothing is surer.

Meanwhile, Viduka – who knocked back a Marconi offer while at the Australian Institute of Sport last year – commands one of the two strikers’ positions in `The Sunday Age’ national league all-star XI, selected according to oustanding performances up to the halfway mark of the season.

South Melbourne’s Socceroo sweeper, Mehmet Durakovic, has maintained his remarkably consistent form by being included for the fourth successive season.

And the Knights’ 34-year-old captain, Josip Biskic, makes an appearance for the third time in four seasons, even though he has missed the past three games because of injury.

Our goalkeeper is Marconi’s Mark Schwarzer, whose penalty saves against Canada allowed the Socceroos to advance to their showdown with Argentina in the World Cup qualifying series.

While Schwarzer was away on national team duty, Marconi conceded six goals in four games. His return plugged the leak.

Schwarzer does not have the security of playing behind a particularly cautious defence. All the backmen _ Matthew Bingley, George Jolevski, Ian Gray and Blajoje Kuleski like to push up in support of attacks, so Schwarzer often is caught in desperate situations, having to act as sweeper as well as goalkeeper. His timing and anticipation are first- class.

Bingley and Andrew Marth of the Melbourne Knights are our two stoppers. Marth, like Bingley, brings to his defensive role a fierce determination to attack at every opportunity, and they both go forward to exploit their aerial supremacy in dead-ball situations near goal.

They are defenders of the new breed _ able and eager to take part in attacking moves and lethal in finishing them off, yet also alert to their marking responsibilities, Bingley more so than Marth.

Both will be part of the new Socceroo team when it is unveiled in May or June.

Our full-backs, David Barrett (Sydney Olympic) and Fausto DeAmicis (Knights) will also vie strongly for Socceroo selection. For Barrett _ who dominates Olympic’s right flank from one corner flag to the other _ a place in the national squad is well overdue. A former Australian under-17 representative, he has excelled in the national league for five or six seasons but is still only 24.

DeAmicis appears to have become more consistent in his second season with the Knights, having previously played for Juventus and George Cross. He is technically more gifted and probably faster than Barrett.

Partnering playmaker Biskic in midfield are Steve Tasios of South Melbourne and Ransford Banini of Brunswick. Tasios demonstrated by scoring six goals in the first seven games of the season that he was the best attacking midfielder in Australian soccer.

Although Banini has been playing mainly as sweeper, we have chosen him in midfield because Brunswick coach John Margaritis pushes him forward in appropriate matches and Because Banini does the work of a midfielder even when he lines up in defence.

Nothing compares with watching Banini at his best. Formerly the captain of Ghana’s youth team, he is now the most exciting and most explosive player in Australian soccer. Brunswick invested wisely when it paid an Australian record $50,000 transfer fee for him because he would be worth more than $500,000 on the European market. What’s the betting that he goes to Europe eventually, since many of his Ghana teammates are there already? Viduka’s partner in attack is South Melbourne’s Con Boutsianis, who has turned the free kick and the corner into an art form. Like Tasios, Boutsianis scored six goals in the first seven games. In addition, he notched three in the National Cup.

Today’s matches, with likely winners in capitals: MELBOURNE KNIGHTS v Parramatta Eagles at Croatian Sports Centre, Sunshine, 6pm; West Adelaide v SOUTH MELBOURNE at Hindmarsh Stadium, 7.30pm; SYDNEY OLYMPIC v Newcastle at Leichhardt Oval, 6.30pm; Sydney United v Marconi (draw) at Croatian Sports Centre, Sydney, 6.30pm.

Excellence their goal Laurie Schwab’s national league all-stars at the season’s half-way mark: GOALKEEPER: Mark Schwarzer (Marconi) SWEEPER: Mehmet Durakovic (South Melbourne) DEFENDERS: avid Barrett (Syd Olympic), Andrew Marth (Melb Knights), Matthew Bingley (Marconi), Fausto DeAmicis (Melb Knights) MIDFIELDERS: Steve Tasios (Sth Melbourne), Josip Biskic (Melb Knights), Ransford Banini (Brunswick) STRIKERS: Mark Viduka (Melb Knights), Con Boutsianis (Sth Melbourne) RESERVES: Paul Wade (Sth Melb), Steve Corica (Marconi).

Author: Laurie Schwab
Date: 09/01/1994
Publication: THE SUNDAY AGE
Section: Sport

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