Give Socceroos' attacking trio a licence to thrill

Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou should look no further than a genuine strike force of three red-hot 'European' forwards for the 2018 FIFA World Cup playoff with Syria.

Forget all about patterns and formations, wingbacks and tracking back: Mathew Leckie, Tomi Juric and Robbie Kruse must be let loose on the Syrians and the rest should look after itself.

All three have had their ups and downs in the last few months but there is no question about their ability. Who knows what mayhem they could cause if Postecoglou perseveres with them and gives them another chance to hit it off together.

It's quite amazing how rewarding patience, perseverance and keeping things simple can be.

The Socceroos must beat the Syrians over two legs to stay in contention for a place on football's biggest stage in Russia in less than a year.

Asian champions Australia and rank outsiders Syria finished third in their respective qualifying groups and missed out on direct qualification so they must play off in neutral Malacca on October 5 and in Sydney five days later.

The stakes for the Socceroos are high and the coach would be well advised to play in a user-friendly formation that allows three genuine forwards who are in great shape to transfer their club form to the national team.

Leckie has scored four goals for his Bundesliga club Hertha Berlin, Kruse looks like a new man at his Bundesliga.2 side Bochum and Juric is still banging them in for Luzern in his second season in Switzerland.

A 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 formation with these three forwards would strike fear among the Syrian defence and hopefully lay the foundations for a positive result to bring back to ANZ Stadium.

Postecoglou has used these three players before simultaneously with mixed results but rarely have they been playing so well at the same time.

Kruse has come in for plenty of stick from the media and the fans in the last few months for his unsatisfactory performances and to be fair it was not always unjustified.

But what critics have failed to recognise is that the former Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory star is very much a confidence player and when you add the fact that he has had to overcome two major injuries in the last few years just to keep his career alive you may understand why he became a somewhat tentative striker instead of the exuberant and confident self we had become used to.

Kruse no doubt has the skill to do the business and you feel that with persistence on Postecoglou's part we may well see this once swashbuckling raider recreate his old magic in the next few weeks that will determine if Australia play in their fourth straight World Cup or not.
Leckie, too, has not been immune from criticism mainly because he does not score too many goals.

But the last few weeks have shown what he can do when he is allowed to express himself as an attacking right-sided winger, without having to track back all the time when the opposition have the ball.

Leckie always had speed to burn yet his recent performances in Germany have showcased how dangerous he can be cutting inside from the right wing. The two 'Robbenesque' goals he scored against Stuttgart and Bayer Leverkusen were beautifully taken and earned him rave reviews.

Juric should revel at the point of the attack if Leckie and Kruse provide him with enough quality service from the flanks.

The big fella is a man for the big occasion and his ability on and off the ball should serve the Socceroos in good stead as they negotiate the final stages of their journey to Russia.

It should not really matter how many defenders or midfielders are picked in Australia's double date with Syria because if the front three as expected provide the opposition with enough headaches, the Socceroos should have enough skill and expertise to dictate matters whether they play in a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-3.

Leckie, Juric and Kruse are running hot at the moment and the Socceroos should make sure they are in a position to take full advantage.

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4 min read
Published 25 September 2017 at 11:00am
By Philip Micallef