What we learned from the Socceroos win over Kuwait

We found out a lot about how Australia is going to play at the Asian Cup after their stunning opening night win against Kuwait. Here are five key points the Socceroos will take away from the Melbourne match.

1) Workhorse Franjic crucial down the right

In the formation employed by Ange Postecoglou, a 4-1-2-3, there is a big onus on the fullbacks to get wide, push up and offer support in attack, but they must also try to avoid being caught out if the opposition counters. 

As the advanced midfielder stationed on the right, Massimo Luongo was required to go across and cover for Franjic at times, while Mile Jedinak dropped back into the backline and the right-sided centre-back, Trent Sainsbury, sometimes went across to fill in for his marauding colleague.

Australia were exposed down the right in the lead up to Kuwait's opening goal, but Franjic responded brilliantly, sticking to his brief and showing enormous energy and stamina to continue getting forward and back. 

He capped it off by having a hand in the equaliser and then directly supplying the second, with a neat piece of skill creating the space to cross for Luongo.

2) Luongo delivers on the big stage as gamble pays off

Postecoglou entrusted the task of breaking down Kuwait and knitting Australia's attack together to James Troisi and Luongo, leaving the experience of Mark Bresciano on the bench. That decision threatened to backfire in a nervy opening 20 minutes, as the Socceroos fell behind and struggled badly for cohesion in the final third.

But they turned it around through Luongo's energy and perseverance, while Troisi also came good later in the first half, before putting in a tremendous shift after the break. It remains to be seen if they can repeat the feat against a better quality of opposition, but for now the signs are positive.

3) Cahill delivers again. Will he ever stop?

In the wake of what was ultimately a confident, morale-boosting victory, it's important to think back to a point in the game when the hosts were behind and facing the prospect of a damaging defeat or frustrating draw against the supposed weakest team in Group A.

Enter Australia's improbable talisman, evergreen 35-year-old Tim Cahill, scorer of nine of his country's last 13 goals in all competitions. Converted from a hard-running attacking midfielder to one of the most canny poachers of his generation, the former Everton star remains a brilliantly effective weapon for his national team. 

Thankfully, others were able to get in on the goal-scoring action on Friday, but it was the usual suspect who struck first to restore his team-mates' confidence. When will the goals finally dry up for Cahill? Hopefully not until after January 31 at the earliest. And don't bet on it happening for a good few years yet.

4) Combinations click on the hour-mark

Despite leading 2-1 going into break, it wasn't until 10 minutes or so into the second half that the neat interplay and combinations Postecoglou identified as the key to breaking down Kuwait's two banks of four began to come good.

Moving away from the 4-2-3-1 he employed at the World Cup, the coach instructed wide forwards Robbie Kruse and Mathew Leckie to tuck in and play slightly narrower, with the two regularly swapping flanks and aiming to link up closely with Troisi and Luongo. 

It didn't go quite to plan in the first 45 minutes but they began to look more and more cohesive as the game went on and Kuwait grew tired and more demoralised. 

By the last 25 minutes the chances were coming thick and fast, with Leckie smashing a shot against the crossbar, substitute Nathan Burns doing the same and Kruse earning the penalty that made the game safe. 

More of the same will be needed against Oman. 

5) Defensive frailty remains a concern

The only cloud hanging over the 4-1 win was the concession of a soft goal from a set-piece and some threatening moments from Kuwait on the counter attack, particularly in the second half with the hosts camped out in their opponents' half. Goalkeeper Mat Ryan had to make at least two very good saves after the break, tipping a vicious drive onto the bar and getting down low to a firm shot from close range. 

Having just one dedicated holder in Jedinak and pushing the fullbacks high up the field was vindicated in the performance and scoreline, but it does leave gaps that can be exploited by quick balls forward, particularly when aimed down the flanks or in the channels either side of the centre-backs. A better calibre of team than Kuwait, still playing reactively, could make Australia pay more dearly if the same issues persist.

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