JUNE 26 2017 – 7:33AM
Better, much better.
Australia produced a passionate, powerful, and tactically smart performance against the South American champions Chile in their final Confederations Cup match.
It wasn’t enough to secure them the win they needed to get through to the semi-final.
But the performance, if not the result, illustrated what Ange Postecoglou has been trying to achieve with a group of players who will have to produce such performances on a regular basis if they are to achieve the lofty standards their coach, and the Australian public, demand.
James Troisi celebrates after his goal against Chile in the Confederations Cup. Photo: Getty Images
Had their finishing been sharper they might have pulled off what would have been a stunning upset.
While there was great disappointment in the immediate aftermath of this game, the reality is that Australia can take plenty from their performance and use it as a template for what will be required over the next 12 months, to qualify for the World Cup and to perform in it when they get there.
Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou is building a squad towards competing in the 2018 World Cup. Photo: AP
The game illustrated how boldness in selection and philosophical approach can work. Sometimes when you have nothing to lose it’s worth just going for it. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You fail anyway.
But there is always the chance that the gamble might come off.
When Australia lined up against Chile early Monday morning few, even among their supporters, would have given them much of a chance.
Postecoglou and his team have beencastigated in recent months for their adventurous approach, particularly since he changed his team’s tactical shape and opted to play with three at the back.
Chile’s Paulo Cesar Diaz Huincales challenges for the ball with Australia’s Jamie Maclaren. Photo: AP
The coach believes that his team must take risks and get men forward – hence a five-man midfield which, in theory can quickly become a five-man defence – and take the game to their opposition.
He has been criticised for inflexibility and for failing to be realistic about the quality of his players and their ability to implement his game plan.
But he has stuck to his guns, committed to a high tempo, aggressive approach he believes is emblematic of the way Australians should approach sport.
At times the Socceroos have looked very shaky, coughing up crucial goals in vital World Cup qualifying matches against the likes of Iraq, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.
They have been left reeling in the face of an onslaught by superior opposition – especially in their 4-0 friendly defeat to Brazil at the MCG and their opening Confederations Cup game against Germany, when the world champions’ second 11 threatened to run riot in a first half when they might have scored four or five times. The 3-2 scoreline definitely flattered Australia on that occasion.
They were markedly better in the second match against Cameroon, even though they were let off the hook somewhat by the African champions’ poor finishing in a 1-1 draw.
But Postecoglou has always said that his team is a work in progress, building towards the World Cup.
Against the Chileans he made six changes to his starting line-up, leaving out players most would deem crucial – Aaron Mooy and Tom Rogic – and starting with the evergreen Tim Cahill, who was earning his 100th cap for his country.
His aim is to create a squad where no one is a guaranteed starter, where every player can operate within the structures he demands and do a job to replace a teammate with a minimum of fuss.
Jackson Irvine and Massimo Luongo, two players who had not been very impressive earlier in this tournament, came in and stepped up, their workrate and enthusiasm vital to Australia’s forward press. Ryan McGowan was given a chance in a backline which also featured captain Mark Milligan.
Robbie Kruse, whose output is so often diminished by injury, showed he could not only play the full 90 minutes but make a major contribution in a wing-back role. It was his pressure in midfield that helped win the ball for Australia’s opening goal when he slid the pass through to Troisi, whose clever chip added to the important goals he has netted for his country.
The hard work remains to be done. A result against Japan in the penultimate World Cup qualifier is vital if the Socceroos are to make it to Russia 2018.
But this performance means they will travel to Tokyo with self-belief and the knowledge that if they stick to their guns, work hard and concentrate for 90 minutes they can get the points they need.
Source : The Canberra Times