Australia struggled to hold onto the ball against Belgium, particularly in the first half, and the Socceroos got to half-time with just 37 per cent possession. While this improved to 45 per cent over 90 minutes, Ange Postecoglou's men simply gave the ball away too often to compete in Liege.The consequences were widespread, with turnovers leaving full-backs stranded up the pitch, forcing Australia to use too much energy chasing the home side and ensuring the Socceroos rarely strung enough passes together to fashion a chance on goal.
Questions remain over whether a defensive midfield pairing of Mile Jedinak and Mark Milligan are good enough on the ball to succeed in Postecoglou's system. The frantic nature of Australia's play (see below) means Jedinak and Milligan are urged to take risks when passing, and Belgium pounced whenever a vertical pass through the middle of the pitch did not find its target. Both of Belgium's goals came from Australian turnovers in their defensive half.
Socceroos need to find another gear
Normally the phrase 'find another gear' means a team needs to play faster and with more intensity. In Australia's case, Postecoglou needs to instill in his side the understanding of when to slow the game down. The Socceroos started Friday morning's (AEST) friendly at the Stade Maurice Dufrasne at top speed and were on top for around five minutes. But from then on they seemed rushed.
The frantic nature of the Socceroos saw the likes of Tommy Oar and Mathew Leckie regularly turn and dribble into a dead end, rather than recycle possession and maintain control. It also saw defenders and midfielders take risks with their passes in an effort to get the ball quickly to the forwards. Australia finished the match with 36 per cent of their passes going forward, while Belgium only had 30 per cent. Ironically, the Socceroos' best period of the match, early in the second half, saw Mark Bresciano more involved, often passing shorter distances and sideways.
The kids are raw but alright
Of the 17 Socceroos that were involved in Liege, three made their international debuts and another two were playing just their second senior game in the green and gold. Against the world's fifth-ranked side, Australia clearly struggled but not one of Trent Sainsbury, Chris Herd, Joshua Brillante, Brad Smith and Massimo Luongo was completely embarrassed.
Postecoglou entered these two friendlies against Belgium and Saudi Arabia aiming to increase the depth of talent at his disposal. The 49-year-old has unearthed another set of players worth working with.
4-2-3-1 may not be the right formation
Another less than impressive performance from Oar and the fact Milligan and Jedinak were regularly overrun in midfield, could indicate Australia needs to switch to a diamond midfield. By dropping Oar to the bench, Postecoglou could play someone like Luongo alongside Milligan and Jedinak to provide a more constant presence in midfield.
With that trio working together in the middle, the full-backs would have more defensive cover when they surge forward, plus the playmaker - either Bresciano or Tom Rogic, when fit - would be free to create behind a striking duo.
Goalscorers wanted - apply now
In the Postecoglou era, the Socceroos have scored eight goals in as many games. Australia's all-time leading goalscorer Tim Cahill has notched six of those, while skipper Jedinak has struck the other two from the penalty spot.
The Socceroos desperately need to find new regular avenues to goal. Leckie has now played 12 international matches for just one goal, while Oar's tally is the same after 19 appearances. Robbie Kruse - who may get game time against Saudi Arabia as he returns from knee surgery - has three goals in 28 matches for Australia. They, and others, must step up.
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