The two changes that sparked Caltex Socceroos' friendly win
Another week of training is gone, and another friendly win has been registered before the Caltex Socceroos travel to Russia for the FIFA World Cup™.
The test of Hungary has been passed — a 2-1 win thanks to a Daniel Arzani debut goal and two own goals exchanged late in the match.
WATCH DANIEL ARZANI'S GOAL IN THE VIDEO AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE
France now awaits on Saturday 16 June and there’s plenty to ponder for coach Bert van Marwijk who opted for an unchanged starting XI and then made two substitutions that ultimately changed the game after some sticky moments against the hosts in Budapest.
Van Marwijk’s selections were telling, and the Dutch coach confirmed that there is little time for experimentation before the tournament in Russia begins.
“The only thing you can read into this is that I don’t have a lot of time to change teams, maybe just a few positions,” van Marwijk told Fox Sports before the game.
But while the line up was the same as against the Czech Republic from Australia’s 4-0 win a week ago, the performance was markedly different, with the energy dipping slightly after almost three weeks of intensive training in Turkey.
WATCH THE FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS IN THE VIDEO BELOW
The Hungary side, with three wins and nine losses from their last 13 matches, was on top for significant portions of the first 45 minutes, causing Australia’s 4-4-2 defensive shape problems by the movement of their midfielders.
Former Perth Glory midfielder Krisztian Vadocz and Jozsef Varga were both nominally in the middle of the park, but once Hungary had controlled possession of the ball both would move out into wider positions either side of Australia’s most advanced defenders — Andrew Nabbout and Tom Rogic.
Vadocz and Varga’s positioning allowed Hungary’s fullbacks to advance high up the pitch, with Mathew Leckie and Robbie Kruse dropping deeper with the midfield line.
And with Leckie and Kruse then pinned deeper, Vadocz and Varga were able to receive to face and pass forward, with neither Rogic nor Nabbout able to apply sufficient pressure on the ball, overloaded in a 4v2 situation.
As a result, Hungary were able to pass the ball around the back at will, switching the point of attack frequently until the chance to advance arose — which came almost exclusively down either flank in the first half.
Right back Josh Risdon in particular was forced to work hard up against young winger Roland Sallai and Hungary created a number of half chances in the first half yet only testing goalkeeper Mathew Ryan twice.
Yet come the second half, the Caltex Socceroos had found a way to neutralise Hungary’s possession patterns to regain a foothold in proceedings.
Mile Jedinak was introduced into Australia’s midfield, in place of Massimo Luongo, and played on the right side of the central duo, with Aaron Mooy on the left. This allowed more protection for Risdon, while Tomi Juric had fresher legs up front to force Hungary’s players to rush their forward passes.
But as the game ticked over the hour mark, van Marwijk then made two substitutions which would go on to define the match — firstly bringing on Jackson Irvine for Rogic on 63 minutes in a like-for-like change, then handing Daniel Arzani his second ever cap in place of Robbie Kruse 10 minutes later.
Irvine’s energy in apply pressure as part of the front two, alongside Juric, immediately meant Australia was able to cut the pitch in half.
No longer were Hungary able to pass the ball around the back at will until the moment came to attack down the flanks. Instead, Irvine worked to block passing lines and to press the ball, a dual role without the ball which disrupted Hungary’s patterns.
And Arzani’s impact on the game can’t go without mention, scoring just 67 seconds after coming on with his first involvement in the match.
The Melbourne City youngster looked comfortable in his role on the left, moving inside into central areas, and it’s his innate self confidence that shone through when he took on his shot from outside the box to grab his first senior international goal.
Arzani again played a part in the winner, feeding in Irvine with a killer pass which took four defenders out of the game.
Irvine’s cross was diverted in via Hungary skipper Tamas Kadar, but it’s fitting that two influential substitutes changed the game and bodes well for Australia’s ability to impact the matches to come in Russia.