Knockout phase still possible for Socceroos

Pressure and pressing in the right areas of the pitch and dogged discipline can turn the Socceroos’ so-called group of death into a group of opportunity.

You would have to be an extreme optimist or insanely naïve to suggest Australia has any chance of going close to getting their hands on the World Cup.

But with the right structures in place and an astute game plan, Ange Postecoglou can steer the team to the ultimate upset.

The Socceroos will be seen as the easy-beats of the group by the powerhouse nations of Spain, the Netherlands and Chile, even though you can expect the public message from the respective camps to be one of respect for Australia.

Beneath that veil of admiration almost certainly will lay a sense of complacency that will work to Australia’s advantage.

While catching Chile, the Netherlands or Spain on an off-day would be extremely advantageous, Australia’s opportunity lies in its own ability to defend with discipline and determination.

It goes without saying that in international football, defending is an 11-man game and that defending from the front makes the game more predictable and obvious for the players behind.

If Australia fails to put on pressure and to force teams into areas that are easier to defend, the Socceroos will fall over like dominoes.

In the last group game against Spain, Tim Cahill will be crucial from a defensive perspective to interrupt their rhythm and a style of football that has earned plaudits and won silverware.

It will be Cahill’s job to force the likes of Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique to play out to their full backs, allowing the Socceroos midfield to push forward and compress the area that Spain will want to pass through.

It is also important that Australia is not drawn into pressing too high up the pitch and leaving themselves exposed to the pace offered by all three opponents.

I’m sure Ange will be telling the players to be patient. Spain, the Netherlands and Chile will all consider three points essential against Australia and it should be of no surprise to see them dominating possession and dictating much of the play.

Ange has made clear his intention to take a young squad to Brazil and this will provide the pace and energy needed to strike on the counter.

Game plan aside, each and every member of the Socceroos squad must have the discipline to stick to their individual roles and to trust in their teammates.

Ange will be looking for 100 per cent buy-in from each and every player and it will take ill-discipline from only one to turn the prospect of a remarkable result into remarkable failure.

While fans have been excited at the prospect of the Socceroos lining up against the likes of Spain’s Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, the list goes on, and the Netherlands’ Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Rafael van der Vaart, the opening game against Chile on June 13 looms as the most important.

Chile have been relentless in their attacking intentions during qualification with the likes of Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez, Juventus’ Arturo Vidal (if fit) and Valencia attacker Eduardo Vargas amongst those providing a creative and cutting edge.

But defensively they are vulnerable having conceded almost as many (25 goals) as they scored (29) during qualification.

Australia will be underdogs in every game and that’s a role that has always suited us.