Archie Thompson has claimed the Socceroos generally lack the individual flair required to succeed at the top level and believes it all stems from their development as kids.
The ex-Melbourne Victory and Socceroos striker’s close control and imaginative dribbling often caught the eye in the A-League, with one of Thompson’s best goals coming in the inaugural season when he evaded at least four defenders to poke the ball home in a 5-0 win over Sydney FC.
Speaking to Goal as an ambassador for Neymar Jr’s Five – a global five-a-side competition promoted by the Barcelona striker – Thompson lauded the importance of small-sided games in developing skills for full-size pitches.
“I think [five-a-side develops] the skill level, the quality that kind of gets lost I think here, especially, in Australia,” he said.
“When you look at Brazil and some of the players that are the best in the world, they started playing football on the streets, and that’s where the concept came from.
“I got my skills from Mum. Me and Mum in the backyard. We get a little bit lost now cause I remember that’s all I ever did was in the backyard with Mum or my brothers and sisters and kicking.
“We were out in the backyard for hours and it’s funny but it just doesn’t seem to happen with young kids these days because they’ve got their computers and all these social media things.”
Thompson argued that more free play and training for younger players would benefit Australian football at the elite level.
“At that high end level, especially with the Socceroos and stuff, there’s not too many players that have got that flair or that can take on players… you want all your players to be doing that because I know on the Brazilian national team every single one does it,” the self-confessed fan of Brazilian football said.
The Australian qualifiers for the Neymar Jr’s Five tournament began last month but registrations are still open, with the national final in Melbourne on June 10.
The winning team from the Oceania region will be part of the global final in July in Sao Paulo, Brazil where Neymar was born.