Opinion

Socceroos showing signs

by
June 28, 2017

Australian Trent Sainsbury (left) and Chile's Arturo Vidal jump for the ball. Sainsbury is looking more impressive at centre-back with each game. Picture: AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin

Chile star Vargas Eduardo Vargasracts after missing a goal opportunity as Australia caused the world's fourth best side plenty of headaches in their Confederations Cup draw. Picture: EPA/Yuri Kochetkov

Australia's James Troisi, top, scores past Chile goalkeeper Claudio Andres Bravo Munoz during the Confederations Cup, Group B soccer match between Chile and Australia, at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Sunday, June 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Was that the best Socceroos performance under Ange Postecoglou to date?

We may have not got the result that we wanted, but on Monday morning the Socceroos were passionate, powerful, technically sound and defensively strong against one of the world’s best soccer sides.

Australia needed to beat Chile 2-0, the fourth best national team in the world, to progress into the FIFA Confederations Cup semi-finals, but fell short.

Australia drew 1-1 with the reigning back-to-back Copa America champions, but it was the way it happened that excited most.

For 90 minutes, it looked like Australia belonged at this level and if we’d taken our chances, who knows, we could have won by two goals.

In our first Confederations Cup clash against Germany we were outclassed, outplayed and I thought we were lucky to only lose 3-2 — we were miles off.

On Friday morning we then drew 1-1 with African Cup champion Cameroon, and were again lucky to get a result.

Les Lions Indomptables were dominant, they had 18 shots to our five and continuously looked to expose Postecoglou’s back three through sheer pace — which they did.

However, on Monday morning something clicked for the Socceroos, Tim Cahill — earning his 100th cap for Australia — rolled back the years playing behind the striker.

Mark Milligan deputised brilliantly in defence alongside Trent Sainsbury, who looks more and more the part at centre-back.

No Tom Rogic? No Aaron Mooy? No problem.

Former Melbourne Victory marquee attacking midfielder and free agent James Troisi showed he is still one of Australia’s best playmakers with delicate passes forward, as well as a deft finisher.

You might already be aware of my thoughts on the Socceroos and Postecoglou’s idea behind the 3-5-2 or 3-4-2-1 formation, but against one of the best footballing sides it delivered.

Postecoglou also said he was going to stick to what he believed was right heading into next year’s FIFA World Cup.

‘‘At some point in time I’ll get replaced by ‘John the pragmatist’ and you can all be happy and revel in it,’’ Postecoglou said.

‘‘I’ll stick true to what I’ve started to do in this job with the same intention. We’ll play a certain style of football, take it to opposition teams and see where it takes us.’’

Biting into tackles and showing bravery and composure on the ball, the Socceroos did just that for large spells, after Postecoglou shuffled his pack in terms of selection.

Six changes from the Cameroon game and a couple of positional tweaks paid dividends.

Australia for large spells outfought and outplayed a Chile side renowned for its work ethic as much as its incisive passing and goal threat.

We were far better organised and structured than in previous games, and when the game’s key moment fell to Troisi he took it with aplomb, calmly chipping over Chilean Claudio Bravo.

The tournament in Russia was a testing ground for a young squad with ambitions of far-reaching development.

Chile’s key men play regularly in Europe’s tops divisions and in the Champions League.

But on a brisk night in Moscow, Australia’s players did not look out of place in such company.

Arsenal striker Alexis Sanchez was at his dazzling best at times, but thanks to some resolute defending, even he was unable to find the onion bag.

Again, that was in large part to Milligan and Sainsbury, with the former finding his feet as an established Socceroo.

The result and performance has given me and hopefully the Australian public renewed confidence.

The job is far from done, in fact the most important result remains.

A result against Japan in the penultimate World Cup qualifier is vital if the Socceroos are to make it to Russia for next year’s World Cup.

But Monday’s performance, we hope, will hope provide the Socceroos with the self-belief they need to get the job done against the Blue Samurai.

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