Socceroos press home rising credentials

ANALYSIS: Australia's bold and feisty performance against Chile in what became their last match at the Confederations Cup said more about the team's character than all their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers put together.

Massimo Luongo

Australia's midfielder Massimo Luongo (L) vies with Chile's forward Alexis Sanchez. Source: Getty Images

The struggling Socceroos, with one point from two matches against Germany and Cameroon, were given little chance of even living with the hot Chileans.

Needing to beat the South American champions and fourth-ranked team in the world by two clear goals, Ange Postecoglou's men went into the match with a positive and aggressive approach that clearly unsettled their much vaunted opponents.

Australia played an exemplary pressing game with an intensity to match and rarely gave Chile time and space to weave the special skills that helped them win the last two Copa America titles.


The Chileans knew from the very first Socceroos tackle that they were in for a tough encounter.

The 1-1 draw in Tim Cahill's 100th game for his country meant an early exit from the tournament but the manner in which the Socceroos took the game to Chile provided plenty of hope for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Japan and Thailand.

It was one of the most impressive and encouraging displays by the national team in recent months and with better luck and more composure in the penalty area we could have been talking about one of Australia's greatest victories but it was not to be.

What it may have done, however, is put to bed the heated debate about whether the team is better served by four at the back or three.

When a set of 11 players put everything into a game, work endlessly and tirelessly for each other, do their jobs to perfection as a team and basically have faith and confidence in what they are doing, then it does not really matter that much what formation they play in.

Three at the back worked a treat in Moscow against a successful side that contained none other than Arsenal's dreaded forward Alexis Sanchez and Bayern Munich's midfield motor Arturo Vidal.

This is essentially because the defence was well protected all night by the midfielders and wingbacks and it was rarely exposed for its supposed lack of pace.

Postecoglou came up with a perfect game plan for the do-or-die clash and he will be devastated that his team did not survive the group phase.

His decision to drop physically jaded Tom Rogic and Aaron Mooy for a match he knew would be very physical paid rich dividends because James Troisi repaid his coach's faith by putting on a marvellous performance that was crowned by a neat finish that gave the Australians the lead in the first half.

The coach is not into glorious failures but he no doubt will take heart and comfort from the fact that when it comes to grit and fight, his men will not take a step backward against anyone.

He might call it another string in the bow, I would think.

The moral of the game is that the Australian players proved once again that they should be trusted to provide top quality opposition even for the best in the world when it comes to the crunch.

They will not play well or win all the time because they are not that good but we should learn to have faith in the boys - make that men - in green and gold because they continue to prove that they are mentally very strong.

The scenario surrounding Australia's participation in the Confederations Cup was similar to that of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

A band of intrepid Australians ventured to the biggest stage in the world three years ago in the wake of a series of poor results that had the fans fearing a disaster.

The Socceroos lost each one of their matches with Chile, the Netherlands and Spain but they put on a set of creditable displays that turned a few heads and augured very well for the future.

Six months later coach Postecoglou's faith in his new team was rewarded when the Socceroos won their first major honour by beating Korea Republic 2-1 in a thrilling AFC Asian Cup final in Sydney to become continental champions.

But that was in early 2015 and two years is a long time in football.

The current Socceroos team were similarly under the gun after a series of poor performances that have cast doubts over their chances of automatic qualification for Russia 2018.

Many were fearing the worst when Australia faced world champions Germany (2-3), African kings Cameroon (1-1) and South American supremos Chile (1-1) in the space of a week in Russia.

But, you know what, we said the same thing two years ago and by the end of the Socceroos' Brazilian adventure we were forced to accept that our concerns were premature and off the mark.

So the message for us sceptics is to have faith in Postecoglou and his men because if there is one thing that distinguishes our players from those of many nations it is the capacity to fight back when the chips are down, the readiness to play without fear against the world's best and the fierce determination to prove their critics wrong.

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5 min read
Published 26 June 2017 at 5:48am
By Philip Micallef