Diamonds are not forever but give Socceroos options, says Ange

ANALYSIS: Australia's Socceroos are fast approaching the halfway mark of their campaign to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup but it's still a case of Russian roulette as far as the team's best formation goes.


Australia coach Ange Postecoglou Source: AFP

Ange Postecoglou's side are in second place two points behind Saudi Arabia after four rounds in the race to reach the finals in Russia.

The Socceroos face Thailand in Bangkok on November 15 and by the end of the night they could be leading Group B because the Saudis are away to third-placed Japan.

Postecoglou would be perfectly entitled to expect full points from the match at Rajamangala Stadium, which is the scene of one of the Socceroos' most infamous defeats.

In a group match of the 2007 AFC Asian Cup Australia crashed to a 3-1 defeat to eventual winners Iraq that cast serious doubts about whether Australian football was prepared to take on the creme of Asia.

The Socceroos have learned to adapt to the game in Asia and they completed their apprenticeship with flying colours by winning the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia.

The Socceroos' campaign to reach 2018 is going very well but it's not flawless, mainly because I suspect Postecoglou has yet to find the perfect playing formula that suits our players' characteristics.

The problem is the abundance of quality midfield players at his disposal which has enticed him to dabble with 4-4-2 diamond at the expense of his successful 4-3-3.

Postecoglou would be mad not to try anything in order to fit Aaron Mooy, Massimo Luongo and Tom Rogic (plus a holding midfielder) into the team but it is also no secret that the Socceroos look so much better and are far more dangerous when they play with three strikers.

Which of course means only three midfielders so Postecoglou would have to make the big decision of dropping one of his three creative stars if he is to use a system of three up front.

We know by now that Postecoglou is by nature an ultra-positive and pro-active coach, apart from being extremely competent, that is.

He will never describe a stadium as half empty but half full so it was hardly surprising that he dismissed a suggestion during the press conference announcing his final 23 for Thailand that the current scenario provided him with a stiff challenge.

"Not really,' he said. "The reality is we have options and that is what we want.

"I certainly don't see it as a negative ... I think it is absolutely a positive for us to be able to change our formation at different times during the campaign or during games.

"It's still a work in progress but in terms of the team we want to be ... having those kind of players and being able to put them in the starting 11 gives us a flexibility that could be a weapon for us moving forward.
"I don't see it that way. I look at the four (qualifying) games we have played and apart from the first half against Japan when we were very disappointing in the way we performed for the rest of it we've been pretty good and that's been with both formations."

It will be interesting to see what formation Postecoglou will use for the match in Bangkok.

Will he deploy 'wingers' Robbie Kruse and Mathew Leckie on either side of a main striker, who might well be Jackson Irvine or Jamie Maclaren because Tom Juric received a knock while playing for Luzern at the weekend and might not make it to Thailand.

Or will he stick with a diamond that certainly has its merits but also its drawbacks because with just two men up front the team becomes too narrow and lacks width.

Thailand are not expected to offer much more than token resistance so any judgments on the team's performance or the effectiveness of the formation will have to be reserved.

Who knows? Postecoglou might be tempted to go with three in the middle and three up front by using Mile Jedinak or Mark Milligan as holders, allotting Mooy the playmaker-in-chief's role and giving Rogic and Luongo a half each.

Rogic can set the tone and the scene for Luongo to come on as an impact player.

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4 min read
Published 2 November 2016 at 1:51pm
By Philip Micallef
Source: SBS