Juric laments Socceroos' sloppy start

Australia striker Tomi Juric said the team's poor start may have cost the Socceroos a vital victory over old rivals Japan as the race for 2018 FIFA World Cup places hots up.

Tomi Juric

Tom Juric earned a penalty for Australia Source: Getty Images

The Socceroos had to settle for a 1-1 draw at Docklands that kept both teams in contention for a spot in the finals in Russia.

Saudi Arabia are now sole leaders of Group B after a thumping 3-0 win over United Arab Emirates.

The Saudis have 10 points from four matches, two more than Australia. Japan have seven, UAE six, Iraq three and Thailand none. 

Japan took an early lead though midfielder Genki Haraguchi but the Australians drew level early in the second half through a Mile Jedinak penalty after Juric was brought down in the box.

Juric played as a twin striker alongside Apostolos Giannou and endured a frustrating evening as the home side tried vainly to overcome a committed and well-organised defence.

"It was hard work, always is," Juric said later.

"It was a little disappointing to concede early because it put us on the back foot.

"We did well to get back slowly into the game but it took a while, though, to get control of the match.

"I think we played with a lot of intent in the second half and showed some positive signs.

"From there I think we could have won the game. It was a game where they went in front early and put us under the pump but we did well defensively in the second half and Maty Ryan pulled off a great save to deny them. Unfortunately we could not get the second goal.

"We were not at our best. Imagine what would have been if we played well."

Ange Postecoglou has dabbled with 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 in a bid to find the right formula with which to tackle the remaining qualifying campaign.

Juric seems to be picked in whichever formation Postecoglou choses and he said both systems would work well if everybody did his job.

"It depends," he said when asked if he had a preference for either formations.

"If we play well with two up front it works well for us and if we play well in midfield with one up front it would be good too.

"In the first half we were not playing our part in midfield. We could have found the pockets a bit better and that would have given us more opportunities going forward.

"In the second half we improved and if we started like that in the first half and we found our stride early it would have been a different game.

"Our job as strikers was to keep the Japan back four as deep as possible in order to give our midfielders some space.

"They were really compact and gave us no space so it was difficult for us to break them down."

Juric said he was surprised by Japan's reluctance to go forward more often, as is their custom.

They were content to absorb Australia's pressure and did it remarkably well, limiting the home team to two or three half-chances.

"The Japanese have not had any great results lately but after getting an early goal they tried to bide themselves some time," Juric said.

"These last two drawn games were a learning experience for us. Even when we win games we learn things. We went behind early again but we'll learn from this and move forward."

Postecoglou shared his sentiments about Japan's tactics.

"It was a different performance," the coach said.

"The sat a lot deeper than we expected. I guess they must have looked at it and thought after going a goal up it would have been a great result for them.

"It was not the typical game against Japan where it is us under pressure and them asking questions. But they were very good at it and very disciplined and worked hard defensively."

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4 min read
Published 12 October 2016 at 5:31am
By Philip Micallef in Melbourne
Source: SBS