Socceroo keeper Mat Ryan has been impressed by the Socceroos’ improving defensive showings after another clean sheet in their 2-0 Asian Cup semi final win over UAE on Tuesday night.
Staying “switched on” has been a mantra for the team after conceding two goals earlier in the tournament, goals they admit they switched off on.
The Socceroos have conceded twice in the tournament – to Kuwait then South Korea – and cutting out silly goals is driving the defensive unit on, said Ryan.
“The two goals we did concede were from moments when there was a bit of a stoppage. From the corner in the first game [against Kuwait] then in the second game there was a throw-in and from memory the referee told me to get my towel off the net,” he told reporters after the UAE game in Newcastle.
“Those little incidents… but now we’re doing a lot better jobs during those set pieces and stoppages.
“It’s a little bit disappointing that we didn’t stamp out those [mistakes] from the beginning but now that we’ve done so it’s massively important to keep a clean sheet, which is half-way to winning a game.”
Ryan pulled off a neat clearing header in the first half to thwart a UAE attack. It’s a quality of his game that the Socceroos are regularly taking advantage of.
“The boss has made it evident that the keeper needs to sweep the backline because we need to keep it compact. Any balls over the top I try do my best to give the guys some cover," he said.
Ryan, a star in the Belgian league with Club Brugge, is happy with the new central defensive pairing of Trent Sainsbury and Matt Spiranovic. With Ryan in goal, it’s becoming a formidable defensive trio.
“The results speak for themselves. Three clean sheets. But there’s always room for improvement," he added.
And communication is also important, said Ryan.
“I was in the dressing room after the game [against UAE] and Spira [Matt Spiranovic] says ‘I appreciate it when you bark at us like that. Even just barking our names just switches us on that little. It could be the difference at the end of the day.
“Telling them to push up, that could be the difference from keeping one of their players from being onside to offside.
“I just bark at the guys and make sure they’re focused. Hopefully I don’t lose my voice some time soon," he joked.
The Socceroos will face Korea Republic in the AFC Asian Cup Final at Stadium Australia on Saturday 31 January (8.00pm local kick off). Click here to purchase tickets.