Now the challenge is to win the Asian Cup

Near enough is no longer good enough. That is surely the message this Socceroos team takes home with it after bowing out of the FIFA World Cup Finals following a 3-0 loss to Spain in Curitiba.

After the excitement and anticipation of the performance against Chile in Cuiaba, the Socceroos were on the cusp of a momentous upset when they lead the Netherlands 2-1 in Porto Alegre. 

That they failed to seize the moment and allowed the Dutch to steal a 3-2 victory became the decisive moment in their campaign.

Simply, we blew it.

Certainly that will be the perspective of Ange Postecoglou and his coaching staff who have spent the last nine months reconstructing this team.

Postecoglou is adamant that there are no excuses for not winning games when they are there for the taking. And the Netherlands were certainly on the hook.

The Socceroos didn't - or couldn't - deliver the knockout punch.

True, this team is a work in progress and valuable lessons have been learned. Primarily, the players now understand that the Socceroos defer to no one. 

That fearlessness was the cornerstone on which their first two performances in Brazil was built. When it ebbed away in the second half against the departing world champions, it exposed the gap that still lay between Australian football and what it aspires to be.

It's been a rough ride for some.

Mat Ryan has had to pick the ball out of his net ninetimes here in Brazil. At times he's been, exposed by his defenders, elsewhere he's buckled.

The kid is made of tough stuff. This tournament will either make or break him.

Tommy Oar has found that skipping down the wing counts for little if your final pass continually goes AWOL.

Both he and Mathew Leckie work hard, but their inability to work the 'keeper when opportunity presents is draining on a team for whom goal scoring chances are like gold dust against such tough opposition.

Whilst their weaknesses have been exposed, both players have big futures if they're prepared to do the work. This was tough, but it's a beginning not an ending.

Still, there is plenty to be excited about. Jason Davidson’s rapid development is a blessing. The Socceroos have being crying out for a left back to rely on and they may have found one.

Matt McKay, who missed the opening fixture against Chile, has enhanced his reputation with his creative and energetic performances in midfield. Mile Jedinak is a natural born leader who this team will look to for guidance in the years ahead.

There's little time to dwell on the events of the last few weeks as the Socceroos now focus on hosting the Asian Cup in January of 2015.

Make no mistake, the dynamic around that tournament will be completely different.

Whilst the Socceroos' credible but ultimately failed campaign in Brazil been greeted at home with the relief of a death row prisoner being issued with a pardon (God knows what we were expecting to happen!) they will be offered no such luxury next time.

Winning will be the only thing that matters. Whether this team is ready to shoulder the burden of that expectation is yet to be seen.

For Ange Postecoglou and his Socceroos, the greatest challenges still lie ahead.