Feature columnist John Kosmina discusses the Socceroos' recent friendlies with Belgium and Saudi Arabia.
There’s not a lot to be said about the Socceroos recent matches that wouldn’t fit under the heading of stating the b***** obvious! The Belgium game simply highlighted the vast gulf in class that was evident in Brazil between Australia and the top nations of the world.
It sounds harsh but it’s true and the sooner we accept this, stop sugar-coating our performances and get on with the job of getting better, the better we will be.
Sure we had our moments in this game but the Belgians were far superior. It’s no blight on us as a nation to admit we’ve got work to do to be considered amongst the best.
Let me tell you, we are much better off than we were back in the day and are so much better at playing football…but then so is everyone else. I’m not saying it’s not good enough; it’s just how it is.
The beauty of playing Belgium or Spain or Holland is that whilst the result might not look too flash, it helps you get better and that has been Postecoglou’s refrain from the beginning.
To improve as a footballer you must, amongst other things, be taken out of your comfort zone regularly. You gain experience from that and are able to apply it when you are in an easier environment.
That’s why it was important to play a team closer to our own standard, as we did with Saudi Arabia, so soon after Belgium. Had there been no second game the Belgium match would almost have been a waste. Staying in camp and playing an easier side was the ideal scenario.
Much of what Postecoglou has been trying to achieve with the team was highlighted against the Saudis. Yes we made mistakes and conceded a couple of unnecessary goals but that came after a relatively sustained performance from the Socceroos and a block of substitutions that always upsets the rhythm in friendly matches.
We tried to play and the tempo was good though I do think we overdid it at times playing out from the back. Too many straight passes in our own half of the pitch – a result of trying to force play rather than choose a safer option and maintain possession.
And you know what?
Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to go that little bit longer and put the opposition defenders under pressure…especially with the likes of Leckie and Oar with plenty of pace out wide (and those two need to start being more than ‘promising players with a bit of speed’. Their end product needs to increase. Enough said).
What Postecoglou has done with his fresh approach to selection is make competition for places high and he now has a number of alternatives for each position.
Herd, Brillante, Wright, Sainsbury and Luongo all showed enough to warrant selection. Luongo in particular was a breath of fresh air in this age of homogenised footballers. He can play, doesn’t mind taking people on in good areas and most importantly for an attacking midfielder, he makes forward runs and gets into the box – regularly and at speed.
It’s a nightmare to defend against and will eventually bring goals, for him and other players.
So once again there’s a bit to look forward to on the international front. While Europe and South America might be a tad beyond us, Asia is where we are at and another three warm up matches against opponents from our region before the January tournament kicks off will be the best indicator of our standing.
In particular the November game against Japan, who many are predicting will be a final preview. With other players available for selection Ange will have a big headache when it comes to final selection for the Asian Cup.